From Ad-hoc to Institutional: The Art of Crafting University-Industry Bonds

By: Khuram Shahzad

”Universities are miniature cities and carry the potential to engage with a diverse range of actors from a layperson to industrial businesses and offering intellectual services.”

Today’s interconnected world requires a synergy between academia and industry, holding immense potential for industrial and regional innovation growth. However, individual-level university-industry collaborations (UICs) often hinge on short-term, project-based partnerships, lacking lasting impact and leading to lost opportunities for documented learning. Such convergence of knowledge and application, however, requires a well-structured framework that bridges the gap between universities and industries. This is where intermediaries (i.e. institutions that function as a bridge between different parties and facilitate interaction among them) step in and play a crucial role in formalizing such UICs, enabling the transition from ad-hoc practices to institutional frameworks and fostering trust. But several questions arise, for example, how is this transition possible?

Universities are miniature cities and carry the potential to engage with a diverse range of actors from a layperson to industrial businesses and offering intellectual services. From the university’s perspective, intermediaries function as the strategic bridge, facilitating communication, interaction and transaction between academic expertise and real-world challenges. These intermediaries provide a structured platform for universities to translate their research capabilities into potential applications. While industries benefit from intermediaries by gaining access to a diverse pool of intellectual resources and state-of-the-art research in different fields. By fostering an environment of open communication and collaboration, intermediaries enable a co-creation culture across sectors.

The formalization of such UICs, however, has become more pronounced, given such varying roles of intermediaries. Beyond their business-as-usual routines such as developing guidelines, IPR agreements and collaborative frameworks to protect the interests of both sectors, they need to go the extra mile. This may require them to craft a well-tailored blueprint not only for knowledge exchange and application but document learning throughout the process which is aligned with changing market needs and industrial expectations. Institutionalizing the learning process in UICs creates several innovative ideas for the whole ecosystem and cultivates symbiotic relationships.

Thus, the intermediaries’ role in formalizing individual-level UICs by bridging the gap between academic research and practice can nurture next-generation agility, adaptability and knowledge-driven applications to drive innovation and economic growth. As we continue to recognize the transformative potential of university-industry collaboration, the role of intermediaries remains indispensable, tying the perfect knot that binds these two distinct worlds together in a mutually beneficial partnership.

About the author:

Khuram Shahzad, a distinguished academician, holds the position of Assistant Professor (Tenure-track) at the School of Technology and Innovations, Production of the University of Vaasa. His association with the Innovation and Entrepreneurship InnoLab research platform at UVA has further solidified his standing as an expert in the field of Industrial Management, for which he earned a PhD with distinction. Dr. Shahzad’s research, entrenched in B2B relationship governance, spans digital innovation management, blockchain technology, innovation ecosystems, and digital transformation, among other areas. He adopts both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, and his findings have graced international journals and books, such as Industrial Marketing Management, International Business Review and Palgrave Macmillan.

Having lived in Finland for over one and half decade, Dr. Shahzad has cultivated an impressive professional profile through collaborations with industry magnates, universities, and financial institutes across the country. Apart from his academic ventures, he actively partakes in regional ecosystem activities, adding value through stakeholder engagement, hackathons, and seminars. Notably, he undertook research visits to Warsaw University of Life Sciences, RMIT Barcelona and UPTEC Portugal, and has presented at numerous international conferences.