Increasingly I’m working at the academia-industry/corporate interface. That could be helping researchers find industry/corporate collaborators or vice-versa; delivering training programs about working with industry (or university); or providing career advice. In a recent review, the juxtaposition of academia and industry was made stark.
The differences between academia and industry are highlighted many times and oft. There are many articles about transitioning between academia and industry (usually focusing on going from academia to industry) – as if it is not possible to successfully and regularly move between the two. Then, for those who make the transition (academia to industry) they are often referred to as moving to the dark side. In my mind, none of this helps academic-industry relations. Indeed, it sets up an adversarial approach to collaboration.
However, despite this I think the major difference between industry and university is our respective views on time. And I think this is the biggest factor preventing stronger academia-industry links. Don’t get me wrong, the stigma of working in or with industry needs to be removed. It serves no positive purpose. But, if we can address our different perspectives on time we might increase the number of collaborative research projects, and get a chance to address our other differences.
When it comes to time, academics think in years. Small projects go for three years, medium about five and large can go for seven or more years. That does not take into account that many projects actually form part of programs – themselves going for a decade or more. On top of that, the same academic might focus on a single portfolio of research for their entire working life.
Conversely, industry do things over three weeks, three months (and at a stretch) three years. Employees transition between organisations relatively regularly and do not take their work with them in the same way that academics do.
With the only overlapping timescale at three years – and at opposite ends of our relative expectations – no wonder we fail to meet in the middle.
Now that we have established the problem, how can we deal with it?
I think the first thing to do (as academics) is to consider running smaller or shorter projects that work to an industry time scale. In many cases, that might mean shifting from 100 in a sample, to 10. This does not mean compromising the research integrity or validity, but it could mean recognising the limitations on such a project. As academics, we might also need to recognise the levels of evidence required by industry are not the same as required by peer review.
For industry, I think the we need to understand that researchers are accustomed to working on longer timescales and consider proposals and projects that might start out as three months, but have capacity to grow to three (or more) years and make that clear in discussions (and the resulting proposals).
Raven Consulting Group specialises in delivering high quality strategic advice to the education, research and government sectors. Richard is driven by the challenge of helping organisations achieve their full potential. His strategic approach to collaboration and research translation has been making the impossible possible for more than seven years. His clients appreciate his cut-through approach. He knows the sector and how to turn ideas into reality. To find out more, call 0412 606 178, email (Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org) or subscribe to our newsletter.