University-Industry Collaboration

Focusing on Five Key Issues

Dr. Md. Abu Taher

24 November, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Focusing on Five Key Issues

Dr. Md. Abu Taher

The present academic-economic-corporate collaboration is fairly a new issue in the context of Bangladesh. However, it is felt that there should have collaborative efforts in making higher education realistic, applied, pragmatic and updating corporate people with innovative ideas and knowledge in the academic world.

The demand for higher education has expanded exponentially; and as our economy is expanding, the need for highly skilled graduates will increase sharply. In the context of Bangladesh in the 21st century, we either being the supplier of the human resources or being the employer cannot rule out the challenges of picking the right man for the right job. This commonality of the challenges ultimately makes a wake-up call to both the universities and corporate entities for immediate solutions to this unique problem through collaboration with each other.

Traditionally universities have been providing graduates with industry-required skills and knowledge, but the challenge of graduates is to apply their skills and knowledge in the real world. There are five important issues that should be focused on from the perspective of UIC. These are Knowledge Transfer Mechanism, Organisational Design, Government Support, Collaborative Network and Technology Transfer. Let discuss the issues briefly.

1. Knowledge Transfer Mechanism

In the neo-classical economy, knowledge became a new factor of economic growth which made university suppliers of knowledge. In knowledge-based societies, knowledge is the source of product differentiation, competitiveness wealth creation and efficient knowledge management is ensured through an effective communication medium, data management tools and steering group. From the open science model where the university has no focus on retaining knowledge to universities are shifting towards a licensing model where university protects, retains and commercialises their intellectual property and finally follows “innovation model” which is a proactive approach of collaboration between university and industry. Thrive for transforming nascent business opportunities into successful endeavours get influenced by the researchers’ ability to impart knowledge. The researcher’s competency and domain-knowledge are required for successful knowledge transfer between university and industry, which is facilitated through active participation in joint learning sessions. Furthermore, knowledge-transfer actions include formal and informal personal interactions, cooperative education, curriculum development, and personnel exchanges. Knowledge transfer mechanisms are the recruitment of fresh graduates, internship opportunities of students-authoring publications. Thereby, this partnership serves as an important mechanism for carrying out R&D services. In Italy, as the Third Mission of university, experienced universities seem to be involved in more knowledge transfer (KT) activities such as licensing, spinoff companies and research contracts. However, strategic intent alignments viz. congruence of motivation and goal of both partners is necessary for successful knowledge transfer. Market stability, knowledge absorption capacity, regional and cultural context influence the effectiveness of knowledge transfer mechanisms. The heterogeneity of KT models used by different business led us to assess the impact of the knowledge transfer mechanism on UIC.

2. Organisational Design

Organisational arrangement poses an important influence on the collaborative relationship between universities and industries. Several types of organisational forms for example mergers, joint ventures, alliances, etc. have been used for implementing UIC. In a systematic review of UIC, these are five forms of organisational design: Personal Formal Relationships, Third Party Formal Targeted Agreements, Formal Non-Targeted Agreements, and Focused Structures. Since collaborations are dynamic, different organisational factors are responsible for the success of University-Industry Collaboration. Pointing out those factors, Rast et al. (2015) demonstrated a model comprising of four factors accountable for successful UIC which includes communication, trust, level of conflict and leadership style. These organisation-related factors have a positive association with successful university-industry collaboration. The occurrence of knowledge transfer activities is higher in a stable and direction-oriented organisation than flexible and change-oriented organisations. A positive association has been seen between UIC and organisational design factors: supportive organisational culture, relationship pattern and knowledge nurturing system.

3. Government Support

Government-university-industry interaction forms a triple-helix which is increasingly necessary for moving towards the culture of innovation. Currently, apart from setting regulatory activities of this relationship, the government is playing a significant role in public entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. To facilitate innovation, the government plays a significant role as an organiser of the effective UIC system. Chinese government incorporated an idea from MIT and the Stanford model of "university-pushed triple helix" which was successful to a large extent in taking a leading role in innovation.  As a socio-economic development tool, the government of China encouraged the development of entrepreneurial universities which eventually enhanced the capabilities of universities. Government assistance to provide human resource training, financial support and formulate rules and regulations are perceived as an important issue by both industry and university.

4. Collaborative Network

Without a strong collaborative network between university and industry, gaining the desired outcome from a university-industry relationship is nearly impossible. To manage collaborative innovation activities, university authorities link up with alumni, interuniversity agencies, local authorities and professional associations. Researchers' motivations determine the selection of the channel of collaboration. Moreover, knowledge transfer mechanisms are related to the trust between the University and Industry. Due importance of uninterrupted information flow between University and Industry, the collaborative network needs to be free from the conflict between partners, actively participative in information exchange following contractual agreement and interpersonal commitment.

5. Technology Transfer

University conducts research, and industrial expertise contributes to the commercialisation of technology based on market demand. Technology transfer happens through technological consultancy arrangements, university extension services, jointly owned or operated ventures. Technology transfer is an integral part of innovation which gives birth to industrial products. University being the main hub for research develops newer solutions to any problem but commercialisation and diffusion of technology are related to the partnership between industry and university. Evidence shows that a complex technology transfer model generated through UIC, where the elements of technology transfer were the transmitter (donor or sender), receiver (transferee), transfer object, and mechanisms. Technology transfer is dependent on human resources who conduct the scientific discovery and the institutional culture which denotes the entrepreneurial atmosphere in the university. In Taiwan, UIC funding has been identified to have a direct correlation to technological innovation. The impacts on three outcomes of UIC: human, knowledge and entrepreneurship capital, contribute to economic growth. These outcomes are influenced by technological innovation. In addition to this, the technology transfer process is affected by behavioural, social and legislative factors.

The UIC can play a vital role to reduce the gap between knowledge and skills acquired by the graduates and the knowledge and skills demanded by the corporate house/industry. Corporate houses can help develop the curriculum, fund research, and provide grants, scholarship and opportunities for industry visit and internship. It is high time for both industries and universities to gain win-win benefits through collaborative efforts and idea-sharing in the real sense. This collaboration will not only enhance graduates’ knowledge and skills but also boost up their moral strength while dealing with the new challenges of the corporate landscape and globalisation.


The writer is a member of University Grants Commission and Director, Board of Directors, Jibon Bima

Corporation, Dhaka.