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Published: 18/12/2023

Eight Best Practices for Making Academic Collaborations Work for Your Business

From whom do insights come? 

Przemysław Szleter, Founder and CEO of DAC.digital, is a member of the Forbes Technology Council, an exclusive community for top-tier technology executives. In this role, he will share insights on DeepTech, Emerging Technologies, and Research and Development on the Forbes website. With over two decades of experience, Przemek has been instrumental in advancing emerging technologies and establishing DAC.digital as a leading DeepTech company in Europe. His profile on Forbes will regularly feature updates on building R&D-focused companies, particularly emphasizing DeepTech solutions for real-world problems. Stay tuned for more updates from Przemek in the tech space.

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This article originate from forbes.com.

Przemek’s role in Forbes

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Eight Best Practices For Making Academic Collaborations Work For Your Business

Working together with universities can yield significant results for businesses. Although there have been several disputes in scientific literature about the usefulness of such relationships, the private sector and the academic community can leverage each other’s advantages to maximize returns for both sides of the table.

Since the first R&D initiative my company was involved in, we have worked closely with academia and made conscious efforts to improve our collaboration with the scientific field representatives. What follows are some guidelines we’ve collected based on our research and experience in this area.

Setting The Foundation: Identifying Research Problems For Successful Academic Collaborations

Identifying the research problems that your company needs to solve is the first step in developing an academic relationship. With a well-defined research agenda, you can map out academic collaborators whose skills and interests are a good fit for your own. Successful collaboration is more likely, and the study conducted will be more applicable to your company if you take this step.

However, we’ve considered two ways to go about it. First is a definitive approach: You have a clear problem statement where theoretical principles and academic competence can add value. The second is an exploratory approach: You have an open-ended discussion to find new topics or directions. At the conceptualization stage, we would have found success with the second approach. If we were further in the project life cycle, the first approach would have worked well.

Building Bridges: Networking With Academia For R&D Projects

Finding the best academic experts for your R&D project requires a careful and strategic approach. Building a strong network of contacts within the academic world through relevant networking is one way to get started. Taking part in conferences, seminars, open days and themed events is beneficial. My team also actively participates in local communities and associations, which helps reach like-minded potential collaborators from academia.

A social media presence can also help you interact with researchers and stay up to date on the newest trends and breakthroughs. Using these platforms and tactics, you can broaden your network and uncover possible collaborators whose talents and interests coincide with your R&D project, improving the likelihood of a successful collaboration.

Balancing Profit And Progress

Academic collaborations should aim to balance the commercial goals of the business with the academic goals of the research. To make sure the project continues on course, it is essential to have clear objectives and a strong methodology before beginning any research project. This entails making sure that both sides gain from the partnership while upholding the validity of the research.

Searching For Funding Opportunities In R&D

Government agencies and academic institutions account for nearly half of global R&D investments. Therefore, there are ample opportunities to acquire funding and resources that will allow cooperation between academic researchers and businesses to thrive. Joint applications for projects to public agencies are a lucrative form of fund generation for a bootstrap startup. A mark of caution here would be to verify that any funding or resources obtained jointly would not hinder the commercialization of the R&D output.

Securing Your Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is a key concern in academic collaborations. Before starting any collaborative project, it is essential to establish explicit agreements addressing the ownership and usage of intellectual property. This includes patents, copyrights, trade secrets and using existing technology/IP. If required, a non-disclosure agreement must be signed.

Communication Is Key: Navigating The Intersection Of Academia And Business

Effective communication and project management are critical to the success of academic collaborations. Keeping in mind the fact that academia and business may have different communication and project management practices/habits, establishing clear lines of communication and setting expectations for regular progress updates is the key. It is also important to establish a project timeline with specific deliverables and milestones to ensure that the project stays on track.

Publication And Presentation Of Study Findings

Academic researchers’ careers are significantly impacted by the publications they produce. In addition to the business’s intended patents and copyrights, they would usually push for certain publications. A provision and advance planning for publication in journals, conferences or books would benefit both parties while avoiding the disclosure of any sensitive material. As a business owner, I can point out that such a contribution to science would lend weight to future project submissions and boost the possibilities of receiving research money in numerous competitions.

Commercializing The Research Output

Finally, businesses should consider the potential commercialization of research outputs. This could involve licensing the technology or intellectual property, creating a spin-off company, or incorporating the findings into existing products or services. By turning academic findings into marketable products and services, companies can increase their bottom line.

Key Takeaways

It is worth giving due consideration to closely working with academic researchers for R&D activities. In the rapidly evolving landscape of technology, such a collaboration would add a new perspective and add value to your business offering. To conclude, I would like to share two pieces of literature from C. Anthony Di Benedetto et al. and Dusica Marijan and Arnaud Gotlieb. These are useful reads for businesses and academic researchers to form and nurture collaboration in addition to the points I elaborated on in this article.

Przemysław Szelter


Przemysław Szelter


DAC.digital CEO

Przemek contribution to Forbes!

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