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Unleashing the Potential for University Driven Innovation Ecosystems

There is increasingly greater recognition of the potential for higher education institutions to not only be a key driver in the innovation and human capital supply chains of business, but also to be a key driver in the advancement of their regions. As the Director of the largest international study on the topic of university-business cooperation (UBC) and university engagement, Dr. Todd Davey’s keynote for the 2017 University Industry Interaction Conference is set to reveal key results from the recently completed study and how universities and businesses can find the ideal cooperation ‘sweet spot’.

UIIN sought to get some insights into Dr. Davey’s upcoming keynote.


Professor Davey, where do you think Europe is positioned in respect to the acceptance of university-business cooperation?

At least at the policy level, there is an awakening in Europe concerning the role of the university-business cooperation (UBC), and the way we think about universities, which have traditionally been the home of education and research. Given the growing recognition of entrepreneurial skills, attributes and behaviors for graduates, universities are increasingly seen as having a central role in addressing high unemployment rates and in keeping European industry competitive against increasing global competition.

Even though it is still an under-researched area, collaboration with business is increasingly being recognized as part of a university’s role in certain European countries, with European countries such as UK and Sweden leading the way.

A crucial driver to consider is that most European universities are not privately, but government funded. Given this scenario, academics have an obligation to give something back to the society and contribute to the region, and not only do their research. Moreover, although it is faculty dependent, a significant proportion of graduates will be employed by business, which curriculums need to consider the needs of the future employers

So whether it is to better engage with society, or to engage in greater cooperation with business, higher education institutions need to find ways of better contributing to their region. European universities need to find a better balance between academic freedom and UBC.

What do you consider to be the challenge(s) in this field of university-business interaction, and where do the greatest needs lie?

The major challenge in this field is the need for more entrepreneurial thinking and some culture change. New thinking is required for European universities to deliver the necessary value for their regions and for this it is essential to encourage cultural and expectation change within traditional universities. University leadership plays a central factor in recognizing that potential, and I trust that they will take necessary steps.

Additionally, an obstacle that restricts UBC is the prevailing bureaucratic structures within or external to universities. In order to support and manage greater connection between university research and industry needs, higher education institutions should be able to operate in less complex structures. Freer movement of personnel between university and business, each involved at the board level of the other and more strategic cooperation in resources sharing are also needed to foster more productive relationships between the two and the remove these cultural barriers. Nowadays, not only universities of applied sciences, but also all traditional HEIs have a high potential collaborate with industry.

Why do you think it is important to discuss the university business cooperation at the 2017 University Industry Interaction Conference?

UIIN brings together culturally diverse participants, which I think is one of the biggest benefits of the conference. The international event allows the discussion of topics from multiple perspectives, given the fact that attendees come from different nations that have their own policies and practices, approaches to UBC, cultural influences, and even legal prohibitions on academic engaging with industry.  Furthermore, the UIIN University Industry Interaction Conference attracts familiar faces, which eventually drives new collaborations and helps advance the knowledge in the area.

What will be the subject of your speech at the conference?

Currently, I am leading the project ‘State of University-Business Cooperation in Europe’, which is the largest international study conducted in the field of university-business cooperation. A significant component of the work has been two major quantitative studies to understand UBC from the perspective of both Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) as well as business, together with the production of good practice UBC case studies and European policy recommendations. My speech will be based on the results and the recommendations of this comprehensive study. I will offer evidence based observations, drawn from over 17.000 survey responses and 50 case studies.

You have attended all previous conferences; why would you recommend someone to attend the 2017 University-Industry Interaction conference?

I think the UIIN University-Industry Interaction Conference is a space for reflection. You may not always hear something that you have never heard before, but the conference allows you to reflect upon certain aspects, that you may not have noticed before, or that you have ignored previously. Also, the conference participants are very stimulating. As mentioned before, meeting such people drives new and innovative partnerships.



Prof. Dr. Todd Davey is a passionate researcher, practitioner, consultant and speaker on the topics of Entrepreneurship and University-Business Cooperation as well as being author of the book ‘Entrepreneurship at Universities’. Formerly a Senior Manager with Deloitte Australia’s Technology Commercialisation Group and Strategy & Business Development Manager for one of Australia’s fastest growing start-ups, Todd has ‘switched sides’ to work within academia. The co-creator of the University-Business Cooperation Ecosystem model, he is the Project Director of the State of University-Business Cooperation project, the largest study yet completed into cooperation between European universities for the European Commission. As an educator, Todd is a Professor at the Munich Business School and is a visiting researcher and lecturer at the Münster University of Applied Sciences (Germany), Adelaide University (Australia) as well as at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (South Africa) in the topics of entrepreneurship and innovation.

Would you like to reach Prof. Dr. Todd Davey before the conference? Contact him via the UIIN Connect here


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