Industry & Academic Collaboration: Notes from Partnering for Innovation

Sam Michel introducing Partnering for Innovation events

If you've been following my sudden increase in Tweetage (apologies for the deluge), you'll have noticed I've been zipping around the country hosting a series of events, Partnering for Innovation.

They're designed to support two collaborative R&D competitions run by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), and I'm rather chuffed to have been asked to help out by the event organisers, the Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network.

It's given me an opportunity to crack bad jokes, help the conversation flow and meet hundreds of people from dozens of companies thinking about the very bleeding edge of research and development in digital technology. There's three things that got me excited about this competition from the start.

Firstly, the requirement that projects must be truly collaborative, not just paying lip service. Secondly, that those lucky enough to get funding are unfettered with restrictions on their IP or losing part of their equity. This is out-and-out R&D.

Thirdly, the challenges the competition aims to tackle are BIG. We're not talking a clever web app here, rather projects that could change the way we use the Internet. That's some ambition. Maybe it's too big an ask, but without having the head space to consider the big picture, the UK's digital sector is just tinkering at the edges.

There's certainly lots of great brains out there. I've been consistently impressed by the people I've met from all flavour of companies, big, small, established and startup. Likewise from the academic side, there's some fascinating research taking place in 3D, semantic data, wireless mesh networks and those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head.

But...and there's a big but. The linkage between business and academia still isn't strong enough. Competitions like this one are definitely helping, I've seen it with my own eyes, but there's much more to be done. Both sides of the equation have the opportunity to push the other, companies commercialising research better, academics pushing the boundaries of knowledge.

From what I've seen, the TSB through the Knowledge Transfer Networks is trying to get this ball rolling and I hope it works. There's still time to get involved in both of these current competitions, and it's worth signing up for the TSB newsletter to get details of when new competitions are announced.

The events focused on Metadata R&D kick off in Birmingham next week, followed by an event in London the week after, then Cambridge in September. It'll be fascinating to see what the country's leading metadata brains are up to.

If metadata is your bag, there's a summary of information including event details on our Partnering for Innovation Metadata page.

The Competitions

Picture (cc) Creative Industries KTN.