In a direct university-industry cooperation project both parties gain from direct collaboration and knowledge transfer. The industrial partner is searching for an innovative solution for a specific problem. The research group, System Reliability, Adaptive Structures, and Machine Acoustics SAM of Technische Universität Darmstadt is asked to develop solutions. While the research group reaches a higher level of industrial useage of its scientific work and solutions, the industrial partner receives a practicable solution for ist spefied problem. Also third parties and end-users can be included in the cooperation project. Thus, the customer’s needs are directly met.
STAGE 1: AGREEMENT AND SHAPING OF THE COOPERATION TASK
First, the company and SAM must get in contact. Usually, this happens in a customer acquisition meeting. During this meeting, the industry company presents a specific problem and the university presents its expertise. The company’s needs must be understood by the university in order to propose a suitable solution to the company. If the company agrees with the proposed offer, they make an agreement about necessary work packages.
STAGE 2: WORK PHASE
The university research group, SAM works on the defined work packages to realise innovative solutions. In parallel, continuous communication between both partners has to be ensured in order to meet all expectations. At some point, the work plan of the project may need to be adjusted due to research outcomes. In this case, an open discussion about the work progress will be necessary.
STAGE 3: DELIVERING THE RESULTS
The university delivers the research outcomes to the industry company. The results may be delivered as a report or a presentation. Based on these results, discussions on further research projects or other forms of cooperation are common. It is beneficial for both sides to have a long term and strong cooperation, so that both can profit in the long term.
TOUCH POINTS: UNIVERSITY-INDUSTRY COOPERATION
The major touchpoint is between the university and the industry company. The connection is very direct, so that efficient communication is possible. This is important to ensure all requirements are met and to align the work plan as necessary.
BARRIER 1: INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
One important barrier is the management of intellectual property. On the one hand, the industry company claims all rights of the research outcomes. On the other hand, the university research group, SAM develops the new innovations, and, so also claims its rights. Before the cooperation starts, a clear legal binding agreement has to be passed.
BARRIER 2: DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDING OF RESERACH
The university’s understanding of research is to gain very accurate and detailed insights on fundamental questions, whilst the industry expects ready-to-use outcomes, which can be monetised. Therefore, university and industry have to agree on the level of detail they expect.
The main objective of the company is to gather innovative solutions for their problems. Companies often get stuck in standardised processes and traditional solutions. They look for new solutions and new methods of problem solving. The main success factors are to clearly define the problem and to determine the existing restrictions.
The main objective of SAM is to have a strong and intense cooperation with the industry to learn about the industry’s needs. The knowledge transfers from university to industry and vice versa is very direct, but also the knowledge about the industry’s needs will influence the university’s future research activities.
- Define the cooperative task in order to avoid conflicts concerning the intellectual property, a clear agreement has to be passed before the cooperative project starts.
- Communicate closely during the project itself; this is vital in order to meet all expectations.
- Create a too detailed description of the cooperative task in order to avoid narrowing the field of solutions. Innovative solutions need space to flourish. Agree on a level of detail on which the research will be carried out. The interest of the university to do basic research may be in conflict with the application-oriented demands of the industry company.