Despite the university-business collaboration being an action of only two actors by default, in the age of an increasingly connected society and knowledge-based economy, these relations involve more than universities and companies as the stakeholders. The aim of the PoliUniBus project (Policy & Challenge University Business Collaboration Platform) project is to build a collaborative cloud-based platform that could implement a new challenge-led methodology to support higher-education institutions to link with businesses across Europe. It builds on the work of the UniBus project, but whereas UniBus is focused on enabling and enhancing direct academia-industry collaboration, the PoliUniBus scope extends to include also the roles of governments, civil society, and the overarching context of the natural environment. The need we see is to move towards a challenge-led methodology, specially responding to industrial strategies and emerging agendas, so identified skill gaps may emerge.
The current, fragmented international scenario means, for example, that a Turkish developer cannot easily identify and access Finnish research expertise to address a UK societal need. Furthermore, the current measures of impact are measured by academic output, with impact grounded in academic review. There would clearly be space for more real-world perspective impact measurements, from the perspectives of industries, NGOs, governmental organisations, and policy makers. For this, the agendas always need to consider both the Technology Readiness Level (TRL), the Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL), the Commercial Readiness Level (CRL), and the Market Readiness Level (MARL).
This first report of the PoliUniBus project studies the current practices of policymaking-academia- business innovation practices in UK, Finland, Portugal, and Turkey, in order to identify gaps between these countries, and where exchange of best practices could be feasible.
The analysis of the best practices shows that the emphasis of the national policies currently lies in somewhat differing areas in the four participating countries, maybe because of the prevailing political climate in the countries, maybe because of the different situations/development stages the countries are in. This taking into account of the regional and national needs is of course important. Experience shows however that a balanced approach would prevent too-rapid pendulum swings that must again be corrected in the nest stage. Thus, a comparative and comprehensive approach to innovation policy making would benefit all. It should be openly acknowledged that “by doing this we will not be able to do some of that.” The approaches should be more clearly oriented toward the “TRL/CRL/MRL/MARL” benefit.
Furthermore, it is clear that policy support for innovation and business-industry cooperation is imperative in today’s society. However, the small businesses tend to drop outside these policy activities, and generally the level of knowledge of what is available is never high enough. There is thus a constant need for visibility tools for networking opportunities and international technology transfer, especially for the SMEs.