(Dimension 2) Capabilities and experience

This dimension refers to staff’s capabilities and experience with external engagement, as well as the current state of external engagement activities. If you wish to learn more about the engagement readiness concept and its dimensions, you can download the Engagement Readiness Investigation Report.

On this page you will find a set of tools for improvement of an HEI’s engagement readiness in terms of staff’s capabilities and experience. If you have already completed your self-assessment you might have been directed towards specific tools from the set. You can also browse through the tools without participating in the self-assessment, but we strongly recommend the online self-assessment tool for building a tailored roadmap to engagement readiness, as well as specific recommendations for relevant tools.

Click on each title to open the tool. Click on any other title to proceed with viewing another tool. If you doubt that some element doesn’t display right, please, reload the page.

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The following six examples will take you on a tour around Europe to explore and learn from existing good practices in which the extent of staff engagement is pushing the boundaries of traditional operations in a higher education institution. Most of the examples are based on the case studies of the University-Business Cooperation in Europe project and complemented by a case study presented on University Industry Innovation Network blog. 

While reading, think about what part of the presented practices you would be able to adapt and adopt in the context of your higher education institution. 

Collabwith Platform (platform)

Collabwith is a platform that allows researchers and SMEs to connect. This platform is not only around Horizon Europe, but for SMEs looking for consultancy services too. Collabwith offers solutions and technology for open innovation and collaboration ecosystem to organizations, which they can test for free through the platform. Interesting Collabwith services are the Matchmaking service for business and innovation collaborations and the SaaS Platform which promises to reduce organizational bureaucracy by 60%, increase efficiency by digitizing collaboration process and decision making for innovation growth.

Link to the platform: https://collabwith.co/

The Engagement Readiness Toolkit offers you quick tips for improving your organization’s engagement readiness level. If you don’t have the time to go through any other material, you can at least take this syntesized piece of advice with you through the day and reflect on it in your work. 

This one, as all suggested quick tips, is based on the Engagement Readiness Investigation Report, available for download on the Engagement Readiness Monitor website. 

Engagement readiness quick tip: Theo of the key characteristics of an entrepreneurial and/or engaged university are embedding the value of and the skills needed for collaboration and cooperation into HEI's research programs and educational content, as well as engagement more generally. Collaboration with businesses on curriculum design and delivery van facilitate entrepreneurial learning in HEIs.
A picture of the logos on the Idea website. UNIBO logo with text: Alma mater studiorum Universita di Bologna. Idea logo with text: innovation, development, entrepreneurship, alma mater.

Idea is the University of Bologna website that presents to students, teachers and researchers, and organizations all the initiatives related to innovation and entrepreneurship. It is the University’s Third Mission showcase, with the aim to disseminate business culture, striving to create a new sustainable model in which universities and businesses can produce a return on investments in research and education for society through innovation, creativity, responsible sales practices, and the creation of jobs.

On the website is possible to find all the information for the different stakeholders, the news, the opportunities, and all the events organised by UNIBO and its partners. Furthermore, all the activities and initiatives are listed, such as: ALMALABOR (a makerspace prototyping laboratory and co-working space), ALMACUBE (the business incubator & innovation hub) and ALMAECLUB (the community of teachers and researchers that encourages exchanges, learning, and project activities centred around academic entrepreneurship).

Visit the Idea website: https://site.unibo.it/idea/en

The cover of the report: a birdview of two people rowing in a kayak synchronously. Blue and green water surrounding them.

The BBS React Innovation Program’s aim is helping companies of the area to redefine their business models according to the necessity of what we call “the new normal”, the post-Covid world.

The BBS React Innovation Program project is an initiative of Bologna Business School, led by the Department of Management of the University of Bologna, designed to make a real contribution to the post-Covid recovery, involving students and Alumni divided into specific rescue teams.  The aim is helping companies of the area to redefine their business models, and adapt to the new necessities defined by Covid-19. To provide them innovative design responses.

Read the full review of the program: https://engagementready.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/BBS-React-Innovation-Program-review.pdf

Interstitial spaces are informal settings where interactions among actors from different organizational fields are more likely to succeed despite the institutional complexity that they face. Individuals acting as “catalysts” have been identified as being particularly important in the dynamics of these interstitial spaces. However, the focus to date has been on individuals interacting in interstitial spaces that have developed informally, and we know little about how formal organizations might purposefully create and manage interstitial spaces to initiate cross-field interaction. Using data from a study of six organizations involved in technology transfer activities between universities and industry in Italy, we explore how formal organizations use interstitial spaces to encourage cross-field collaboration and identify the set of formal and informal activities employed by catalysts to manage the complexity that arises. In addition, our analysis identifies two activities implemented at the organizational and field level by the formal organizations to support the interstitial spaces. Based on these results, we develop a model of the management of interstitial spaces by formal organizations.  

Reference: Villani, E., & Phillips, N. (2021). Formal organizations and interstitial spaces: Catalysts, complexity, and the initiation of cross-field collaboration. Strategic Organization, 19(1), 5-36 

Link to the full article: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1476127019897235 

How can you use what you’ve learned to improve your organization’s engagement readiness?

The Innovation & Partnerships department developed their Customer Relationship Management Plan to know better not only companies they cooperate with but also the people behind it. So, they follow and build on existing and earlier relationships with their business partners. Their approach is personalized communication, which is time-consuming and requires special set of skills. Each year the University has 200 new business partners, and since it is difficult to communicate regularly with all of them, the team selects the most important partners based on the following priorities:

  • company is a university spinoff
  • company is based on university campus (there are cca ~30 such companies)
  • company has lots of researchers employed, etc.

The University President sends letters to these companies each year.

Review the University of Montpellier research partnerships and innovation transfer processes and structure: https://www.umontpellier.fr/en/recherche/partenariats-et-innovation

External stakeholders can review research focus and capacities of various research departments and technology transfer procedures to get a better idea how collaboration can take place: https://www.umontpellier.fr/en/recherche/unites-de-recherche

While reading, think about what part of the presented practices you would be able to adapt and adopt in the context of your higher education institution.

An excellent way to ensure social and industrial impact of develop solutions is to test them on the market directly. Good example of such approach is the LOTUS – a Horizon 2020 funded project in implementation by L’École Polytechnique and 23 partners organizations, including EASY GLOBAL MARKET SAS, a SME from France, developing an innovative chemical sensor for water quality monitoring, which will be tested during the project in India. Materials from this project are useful to get insight how this project was designed to ensure social impact and how partners shared their roles in different phases of the project.

The project developed specific case studies where developed technical solutions were implemented directly in the society. Great approach to designing for engagement readiness in research is to incorporate direct implementation of project results in industry and society.

Link to the LOTUS project page: https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/820881

Link to the project’s case studies: https://www.lotus-india.eu/index.php/uses-cases/

While reading, think about what part of the presented practices you would be able to adapt and adopt in the context of your higher education institution.

This network connects a group of leading research institutions & innovating companies around the world, so that together they can plan & deliver pioneering Horizon Europe projects. It is open to any organization, of any size, anywhere in the world, that can demonstrate a strategic commitment to collaborative research and innovation. This platform allows academics to have direct contact with SMEs, but it also allows those supporting partnership engagement to facilitate the contact on behalf of the academics.

In particular, check out the Success Stories web page and benefits university got from joining the Crowdhelix Network.

Link to the network website: https://network.crowdhelix.com/

Link to the Success Stories section of the website: https://crowdhelix.com/success-stories

Finnish co-creation platforms act as facilitators and boundary spanners, who support long-term interaction and culture-building across organizations.

While reading, think about what part of the presented practices you would be able to adapt and adopt in the context of your higher education institution.

Ask about: content of studies, learning environments, internship, career counceling, working life connections, thesis.

Students are a unique resource that only HEIs possess, and in many ways, they function as an interface of university-business collaboration. But do we know enough about how and where they interact with the industry, how much they benefit from this and what is the benefit for the HEI in terms of engagement readiness? Student feedback could be used both for increasing the awareness of ongoing engagement activities and for mapping of educational assets by staff.  

Read the section ”Student Feedback as an Indicator of Engagement” from the blog article Measuring the Engagement of Higher Education Institutions in Finland to find out how in Finnish higher education students’ feedback is used to measure engagement. 

How could you use student feedback to improve engagement readiness? 

Spanning Boundaries Agents report cover

This research report titled What Are Spanning Boundaries Agents and Why Are They so Important to the Future of the Knowledge Society is a first attempt by the Spanning Boundaries project to identify, define, and characterize the Spanning Boundaries Agents’ (1) qualities, (2) skills, (3) knowledge, (4) roles, (5) activities and responsibilities and to identify (6) barriers and drivers in the UBC context. Thus, the report articulates a comprehensive picture of the Spanning Boundaries agent. 

This report is based on an extensive literature review on the University-Business Collaboration (UBC) context, a large qualitative study consisting in 60+ interviews with Spanning Boundaries champions and experts, and a large quantitative survey for individuals working in the intersection between academia and industry. 

The Spanning Boundaries Synthesis Report will provide you with insights on personality traits needed to be an effective Spanning Boundaries Agent, the importance of having a certain skillset, knowledge, and expertise in order to break down collaboration barriers, the different roles and activities present within the UBC context and, lastly, the most common barriers and success factors that have an impact on Spanning Boundaries activities. 

Link to the full report: https://www.spanning-boundaries.eu/resources/ 

To be engagement ready it is necessary for an HEI to ensure the human resources possessing the required skills, competences, and experience for engagement. In addition, the personnel’s work should contain the functions that enable engagement. 

Read the section “Skills and specific functions of the human resources” of the blog post The Human Factor in Higher Education Institutions’ Engagement to find out more about the engagement skills and functions of human resources. 

The conclusions in the blog post were made by analysing Jamk University of Applied Sciences’ conducted expert interviews for the Engagement Readiness Investigation Report. 

Terraces with greenery.
photo by Danist Soh on Unsplash

This global network of science parks and areas of innovation aims to drive growth, internationalization and effectiveness for its 350 current members. Through taking part in this association, universities can connect their innovation groups and parks to become part of an international innovation ecosystem, foster learning experiences and integrate their educational and research programs with other schools and businesses.

Universities can also promote their programs through participation in the IASP Inspiring Solutions Programme which recognises excellence within science park and area of innovation management, and gives visibility to the best projects and initiatives. It also creates a library of best practices that other STPs/AOIs around the world can implement for themselves. The solutions might be new ideas in any area of activity carried out by science parks and areas of innovation. They could be:

  • services provided to companies
  • new ideas in business incubation, acceleration or soft landing
  • new approaches to networking, internationalisation, or attracting talent
  • initiatives to collaborate with the city and strengthen the whole innovation ecosystem.

Link to the network’s website: https://www.iasp.ws/

Link to the IASP Inspiring Solutions Programme: https://www.iasp.ws/our-industry/inspiring-solutions

The cover of the flyer.

The flyer presents all the activities promoted by the University of Bologna to address companies’ needs and encourage students, academics, and researchers to engage with industry. This communication material also points out important statistics about the extent of engagement of the university.

Link to the flyer: https://engagementready.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/UNIBO-University-Industry_Engagement@Unibo_2018.pdf

To know more about the initiatives listed in the flyer:

List of the Interdepartmental Centres for Industrial Research: https://www.unibo.it/en/university/campuses-and-structures/interdepartmental-centres-industrial-research