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Academia-industrial linkage: a real need of time

The collaboration between industry and the academic world has always been an important but complex topic. Due to the rapid evolution of the business environment and the vast transformations throughout the academic realm, the subject is now even ‘hotter’ than it has ever been. Efforts were being made to utilize capabilities of educationists and researchers. Partnership among industries and universities is a two-way process where academic partner or universities work and benefit with established businesses in different ways like collaborative research and development, supporting innovation in SMEs, consultancy and advice, internships and placements for students, graduate employment and providing Continuing Professional Development.

Universities are also key economic players in the area of enterprise and in supporting company start-up, often playing the key role of an anchor institution or economic development partner for their localities. The business partner similarly benefits in a number of ways, from accessing world-leading innovation and research for growing and developing internal capability. It’s a mutual approach – the companies offer business insights and the faculty with their students contribute proven methodology and expertise so, it is a win-win situation for both parties and lose out if they don’t collaborate.

The universities and industrial companies have different business methodologies.

Universities focus on:

  • Educating people and in creating new knowledge and excelling in existing know-how.
  • Companies concentrate on mastering the challenges of a competitive environment and are striving for market success.

There is a need that universities collaborate with industries into their core strategies and recognized real benefits. Obviously the core interest of both differs. When they collaborate, each party has certain expectations of the other side the companies expect innovative and state-of-the-art lectures to secure high quality education, valuable knowledge and groundbreaking methodologies, while the universities expect their students to be given business experience e.g. through internships and opportunities to put their skills into practice. The academics also expect to be given the opportunity to transfer theoretical ideas into practical projects and to implement research in the real world.

Both parties have fundamental points of interest and this is where a win-win situation is achieved for both of them. With students being well educated in new methodologies and the corporate experts transferring these innovations into practical projects, which involve the students, we will soon be able to see how the collaboration can bring about mutual advantages.

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Companies which do not have a correlation with the academic community are expected to advance slowly. They miss out on early access to the latest research results and methodologies and then need more time to put these methods into practice. By being out of touch with a university, its students and young professionals, they become less attractive as prospective employers and often find it more challenging to recruit graduates and commit them for their first 2-3 professional years. It therefore seems much more effective for a company to collaborate with the academic world enabling environment for increased creativity for new comers and guarantees that enhanced competitiveness. These functions go hand-in-hand and reinforce each other.

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Western countries made tremendous progress and development after industrial revolution but the industries in West was supported and strengthened by academia. Now, there is great upward pressure in East including Pakistan to bridge the gap between academia and industries and commercialization of technology to ensure sustainable growth in Pakistan.

academia-industrial linkage creates long-term effects on the development of nations. Countries like China, India and Thailand are among Asian countries that worked hard to strengthen these linkages which improved their economic conditions.

“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success” a saying of Henry Ford

History reveals that individualistic approach to strive for excellence can never be made true until forces form a bond. Therefore, Government of Pakistan and HEC along with the universities strive hard to bridge the gap and take strategic measures for a strong and effective academia-industrial linkage so that educational policies are not suspended or shelved. IRP with the support of HEC, Academia, Chambers and other stakeholders try to turn this dream into reality in the form of Annual Invention to Innovation summits as they realize that with globalization, it is unavoidable for all the countries to compete in the international market.

Competitiveness, defined by Michael Porter as ‘the ability of firms to compete, grow and be profitable in long run’, will be the toughest challenge faced by firms all over the world and it is impossible for any organization to achieve the pinnacle of competitiveness without any innovation system in its processes and products.

 

A strong innovation system builds up through the establishment of industrial parks and efficient networking of the triple helix of competing environment and the universities are always considered a hub for innovation where scientists from various disciplines gather to share their ideas for developing innovative technologies, theories, procedures and systems. The innovation done in the universities catch huge attention and demand from industries will leads to improved and diversified economic activities and market development of any country and academia-industrial linkages ensures that the R&D activities in universities are oriented towards demands of market and needs of the society partnerships can also play a vital role in student recruitment, internships, retention, and development of human capital domestically. Linkage includes execution of consultancy projects, projects of experiential learning, industry-specific sponsored chairs, collaborative research activities, surveys and commercialization of innovation. At this stage academic researchers are found in industries for consultancy and top executives in universities for teaching and human resource sharing takes place. This level of higher linkages results into satisfaction of both units. If academia has demand for funds and at the same time industry is short of time and human resource to conduct research then a mutual position of both units results into high level of information spillovers and supports economic growth.

An article is written by Ms. Urooj Aijaz (Faculty H&SS, Bahria University Karachi Campus)

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