Ten to twenty years from now, companies and universities that have built strong multi-dimensional partnerships will be better positioned to react to ever more dynamic environments.
If we have recently learned one thing, it is that the world is changing fast in unpredictable ways. Disruptions in technology, health, politics, environment and social structures have shaken up the dynamics in pretty much every organisation.
“The organisations that not only survive, but thrive in these circumstances are those that adapt the best to change. This is true for all organisations, whether they are companies, governmental organisations or universities.”
The best way to build an agile organisation that is prepared for an ever changing environment is building connections with the world outside the organisation. These connections help to develop sensitivity to change and allow the organisation to react fast and effectively in collaboration with its stakeholders. For industry, it is vital to stay connected to the world of knowledge and talent within universities, while for universities it is vital to stay connected to world of the application of knowledge and the future employers of their students.
However, building meaningful connections that bring these benefits of collaboration and agility is not easy.
In an exaggerated depiction of the sometimes difficult relationship between industry and the academic world, industry is seen as short term thinking, money hungry and opportunistic, while universities are seen as slow, old fashioned and disconnected to the real world. So how are partners different from this caricature in successful partnerships? And how do successful partnerships grow?
Successful partnerships are first and foremost based on an alignment of long term goals, both in the content as in the way partners expect to benefit from the partnership. Secondly, strong partnerships need to be multi-dimensional.
Alignment of content is usually the easiest part, whereas the alignment of goals is less straightforward and takes more time to discover. The best way to establish if potential partners match is to start small. You shouldn’t start with a full partnership right away, you start with a small collaboration, for example a small research project or internships. When a mutual beneficial collaboration arises, this engagement can be expanded to other fields, e.g. internships, company employees giving guest lecturers, collaborative PhD projects. Too often these collaborations remain one-dimensional, e.g. only in research. But for a strong partnership to flourish, it is essential to have an array of collaborative activities that leverage the results and multiply the connections. By seeing all of these activities as building blocks, both parties can build steadily on a strong fundament, ultimately resulting in a strategic partnership that is built for the long term. For a partnership to succeed, both partners need to be open about their own goals and always keep the long term objectives in scope.
This also allows to steer away from short term objectives, and focus on long term objectives of both partners. All activities should in the end contribute to these long term objectives.
Both companies and universities can maintain a large number of ad hoc collaborations, but they can only manage a handful of meaningful, long term partnerships. That is why, after the exploration phase of a minor collaborative project, both parties need to focus on a limited number of partners that are well aligned on the long term goals.
Collaborations between industry and the academic world are not just about research funding, or access to talent. They are about people, together enhancing the body of knowledge, the exchange of knowledge and the exchange of people between a company and a university, creating long term value for both organisations and the people involved. If we start building multi-dimensional partnerships now, in ten years we will have incredibly powerful networks of organizations that are well positioned to face the challenges ahead.
Arianne Bijma is Global Manager Talent Programs and University Relations at ASML. Coming from an Innovation Management background, Arianne Bijma joined ASML in 2015 to set up a new strategy for Talent Engagement and University Relations. Access to knowledge and talent is her main purpose, as ASML is playing champions league when it comes to technology and innovation in the Semiconductor industry. With over 25000 employees across the globe and almost two billion euros R&D spending every year, innovation is in ASML’s very core. With a global team, Arianne is responsible for developing and implementing the strategy that defines the technological domains, the university ecosystem, and the programs, that enable the interaction with bright minds across the globe.