Events - 08.06.2017 - 00:00 

VHB-Conference: How can joint work between universities and businesses be successful?

How could they benefit more from one another and better drive developments? These and other questions were discussed by Prof. Dr. Thomas Markus Zellweger (University of St.Gallen) with guests from science and practice as part of the Academic Association for Business Research’s (VHB) 79th anniversary.

9 June 2017. Prof. Dr. Gerhard Speckbacher (WU Vienna, Department and Institute Board), Dr. Jürgen Henschel (Technical Director of FAIR GmbH - Facility for Antiproton and Ion Reseach in Europe GmbH), Daniel Weder (CEO of the air traffic control company Skyguide) and moderator Thomas Markus Zellweger are in agreement: successful cooperation between science and practice is a growing concern. The perspectives from which the guests discussed were as varied as their backgrounds.

At the opening of the panel discussion, Zellweger stated that one problem is the visibility of specialised research results. The usefulness of research results in specialised areas, i.e. findings from “small niches”, are difficult to communicate externally, and it is therefore difficult to integrate them into operational contexts.

Science vs business - different thinking, different approach?

This was challenged by Daniel Weder, CEO of Skyguide. His company is striving for a fundamental change. Skyguide safeguards the airspace above Switzerland and neighbouring states. The airspace is monitored in centres and air traffic is coordinated. Until now, centres have worked independently from one another. Pilots are the connecting link. By changing the radio frequency, they obtain necessary information from the responsible centre. Weder and his team are now working closely with universities across Europe, including the HSG, to administer the change process and network the centres together.

Knowledge-based basic research with results relevant to practice

Dr. Jürgen Henschel, Technical Director of FAIR GmbH, reported on the tension between the demands placed on the institute by researchers, the demands of the administration and the requirements of establishing and setting-up a world-class research institute. All claims and requirements are legitimate, but they are often difficult to reconcile. Additionally, areas are often extremely specialised in basic research. The benefit and insights that this research provides are difficult to communicate to the outside world. At least, he adds with an impish grin, FAIR was immortalized in textbooks, because they discovered more elements.

Promote interdisciplinary work through university structures

Universities also promote interdisciplinary work and the visibility of research results for practice. At the WU Vienna, Prof. Dr. Gerhard Speckbacher formed the Institute for Corporate Management from individual chairs, which today consists of functionally organised (e.g. marketing, accounting) and interdisciplinary departments (e.g. strategy & innovation). In order to promote cross-connections or interdisciplinary work alongside a functional orientation within the institute, relevant research bodies and centres of excellence have been set up, which focus on the cooperation between research and businesses. He further stressed that it is important to display a cross-institutional image to the public.

Multifunctional problems require multifunctional solutions

During the discussion, the participants were in agreement: multifunctional problems require multifunctional solutions. This increases the significance of interdisciplinary work and research. At the same time, knowledge must be pooled in order to make it manageable for practice. Incentive systems could make interdisciplinary research more attractive. These could include, among other things, financial allowances, a data exchange between science and business or greater governmental control.

At the end of the discussion, Weder emphasised the need to begin a working relationship at the highest level. Speckbacher, on the other hand, pointed out that it is important for both sides to clarify their expectations and those of their counterparts. Henschel got right to the heart of the matter: “Talk, talk, talk!” Communication between all partners is crucial for successful collaboration between researchers and businesses.

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