WHAT ARE THE RIGHT KIND OF PROBLEMS TO SOLVE IN UNIVERSITY/INDUSTRY COLLABORATION?
University/industry collaboration is sometime seen as a mere training ground for the students. The setup is like this: The industry supply real life tasks, which the students then take on and deliver solutions to. This is of course beneficiary to the students – they train on real life tasks – and the industry partner gets a task done. Nothing wrong with that.
But at Lillebaelt University of Applied Science (EAL) in Odense, Denmark we aim to take this further. We do this by adding the element of innovation to the mix. So the industry partner isn’t supplying set tasks for the students, but giving them problems to solve to which the industry partner does not have a solution. They are problem areas that is at the fringe of the industry partner’s own wish for development.
In this way these ”fringe” problems represent an opportunity for the University to deal with areas, which the industry partners have not developed yet. In this sense the students, the industry partner, the teachers and the University become collaborators on the same mission.
To take this strategy to the test the BA in Digital Concept Development at the Media and IT department at the University have for 5 years worked with the BISI project. BISI is an acronym for Building Interfaces for Social Inclusion. The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between two educations. Students from two universities collaborate through a semester on developing and testing welfare technology, which will help children with special needs become included in society.
The two bachelor programs in respectively Digital Concept Development at Lillebaelt University of Applied Science (EAL) and Social Educator at University College Lillebaelt (UCL) work together with users of welfare technology and partners from the welfare technology industry. The users come from two municipal institutions for children with special needs. The institutions present issues that hinder inclusion. The solutions for these issues are then developed by the students and presented to industry partners within the welfare technology industry as possible innovative products for further development.
The article will through interview with an industry partner examine the validity of the assumption that this type of innovative industry/university collaborations is mutually beneficial for all partners. In this case it will focus on industry partner, because they represent the “outside” perspective on the project. Thus the idea is to look beyond the university perspective.