Investigation Report Key organisational resources
This blog post is part of a series exploring the factors within four key themes that contribute to university readiness for engagement, as identified by the Engagement Readiness Investigation Report. While, as has been demonstrated by this blog series, an HEI’s strategic orientation towards deep engagement with industry and society is crucial, without adequate organisational resources, successful engagement cannot take hold. This article explores three key organisational resources that are explored in the Engagement Readiness Investigation Report. These include: i) the Existence of a Knowledge Transfer Office (KTO), Technology Transfer Office (TTO), or Partnership Office, ii) Communication Networks, and iii) Financial Resources. Also in the series, you will hear about the importance of the ecosystem approach to engagement, open, adaptive and collaborative organisational culture, and collaboration embedded into research and educational pedagogies.
Knowledge Transfer Office (KTO)/ Technology Transfer Office (TTO), or Partnership Office
One of the factors that emerged as crucial to HEI engagement readiness is related to the existence of Knowledge Transfer Offices (KTO), Technology Transfer Offices (TTO), Partnership Offices or other specialised structures that act as single points of contact dedicated to promoting, facilitating, negotiated UBC projects and agreements. TTOs or KTOs act as an interface between researchers and industry and take a managerial role in collaborations. The skills and competencies of staff in these offices is of utmost importance: staff should be trained in competencies specific to successful engagement, including both ‘’soft relationship-building skills’’ as well as knowledge of intellectual property rights, patents, knowledge transfer, budgets, contracts, and other technical aspects that shape HEI engagement.
Staff members of this office should establish a proactive communications strategy that distributes information on potential projects, calls for research, events aimed at fostering collaboration and case studies of successful cooperation. This communication strategy should be two-fold, including internal communication and events that aim to promote interdepartmental cooperation and collaboration, and external communication, to highlight the universities strength, research orientation, project needs, and track record of successful collaboration. Through these channels, the engagement officers should operate as liaisons promoting connections and relationships between the HEI and the wider community of external actors.
Networks of Communication
Successfully engaged HEIs tend to foster extensive communication through various mechanisms. This constant communication facilitates the creation of networks that result in valuable social capital for the HEI. There are four different types of communication channels that HEI might use to communicate and build partnerships with external actors. Of these four, traditional channels (including conferences, publications, graduate employment) and bi-directional channels (including networking with companies, joint R&D project) are favoured by HEIs due to the tendency of these institutions to pursue more traditional goals without having to take the risk of new entrepreneurial missions, while commercial channels (including patents and technology licenses, incubators, and spin-offs) are least preferred. Service channels (including consultancy and technical assistance, staff mobility and staff training) are also sometimes cited.
In addition to this, informal interactions are more highly considered than formal linkages, as whilst it is the organisation that creates the structure for collaboration, it is individuals who need to sustain the motivation and momentum to carry through on these relationships. UBC partnerships often occur off the back of personal relationships and informal exchanges, and these personal relationships of academics are particularly important in cases where a HEI does not have a well-developed infrastructure for collaboration. Furthermore, the more a university is involved and integrated in the wider socioeconomic community that surrounds them, the easier it is for them to develop the long-term relationships that build the foundation of successful collaboration. See article on the ‘’Ecosystem Approach’’.
“Funding’’, ‘’budgets’’ and ‘’finance’’ for engagement all have a significant influence on the engagement readiness of an institution. Industry representatives reported that university funds were a pull factor for initiating their collaboration with universities. This is particularly the case for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that may lack the financial resources needed to undertake organisational research projects of their own. In a similar vein, university representatives confirmed that they can use their budgets as a means of attracting businesses to work with them. It is important for the university to clearly identify its strengths and weaknesses, as well as its assets that can be used for engagement.
In many cases, the need for funding also exists the other way round, particularly in the case of public universities. In this case it is necessary for HEIs to attract external collaborators that can provide funds to fulfil certain research or project needs. Universities face intense competition for securing funds and as such UBC becomes an ever more important means for them to simultaneously increase their competitiveness when applying for public funding as well as opening alternative avenues for private funding.
To read more about this topic, head to the Engagement Readiness Investigation Report.
Blog editors: Fleur Schellekens (UIIN) and Alexandra Zinovyeva (UIIN)
Header photo by Sime Basioli on Unsplash