How can the university increase its economic impact?
Together with research and education, the creation of social impact is a third core task of universities. That task is starting to be surveyed more explicitly, through research assessments and in other ways. With impact – ‘the transfer of knowledge for the benefit of society’ – the focus can be both on economic value (profit) and on non-economic value (non-profit). On Monday 23 November around 15 members of staff discussed the economic aspect. What can the university do to increase the impact of its research, and where should the focus lie in the upcoming Strategic Plan?
The participants – many of them closely engaged with the topic through their professional roles – were asked which key areas should be emphasised in the Strategic Plan. A few highlights from the roundtable discussion:
- ‘More attention should be paid to facilitating sustainable collaborative relationships. Invest in intensive partnerships and develop mutual trust. This will lead to an organic form of collaboration which automatically results in more economic opportunities.’
- ‘In the future we won’t be able to rely on state funding as much.This means we need to take a broad look at who our partners are (not just the private sector!). Sustainably building up relationships and partnerships requires a long-term perspective and investment.’
- ‘Rather than responding in an ad hoc way to passing calls or to funding from third parties for work, create more professional “client relationship management” and “key account management”. The aim is to base research policy on our own vision and strength.’
- ‘Regard collaboration as a broad ecosystem with multiple parties forming a value chain together, with a less strict dividing line between “fundamental research first” and “application second”. Intensive collaboration with the private sector can itself improve transparency and ensure integrity.’
- ‘Our enormous alumni potential – a network for collaboration with other organisations and the business sector – needs to be better used and deserves a more structural approach.’
- ‘Carry on with the focus areas. Ongoing attention to and scope for fundamental research and for research driven by curiosity is after all the basis for monetising and creating value from knowledge.’
- ‘Encourage a cultural shift towards researchers reasoning from the outside in, instead of just outwards from within.’
- ‘Regard economic “valorisation” not just as bringing in research under contract and indirect funding. It’s also about simply giving good training to high-value knowledge workers.’
- ‘Place a value on “valorisation efforts” in terms of time and money.’
- ‘Use task differentiation. Not every scientist has to be able to do everything. Give a group responsibility as a whole.’
- ‘We need greater insight into the knowledge gaps within the business sector, civil society and politics. Closer contact with these users will ensure better links between the research agenda, questions and knowledge gaps.’
- ‘Education still has a low profile. The university can make much better commercial use of this core task, for instance in relation to trends such as “lifelong learning”. Here, too, we should aim for sustainable partnerships.’