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Spanning Boundaries Training Programme – Laying the Foundations for Becoming an Agent of Change

Elena Galán-Muros

At UIIN, our work is underpinned by research. With 18 large-scale research initiatives currently running across various topics in the field of university-industry collaboration, we are excited to share our insights with you in our research projects blog series. In the following months, we will introduce you to our research projects and update you on the activities through inspiring cases, interviews, and project outputs. First up is the Spanning Boundaries Project, an Erasmus+ Knowledge Alliance project, in which UIIN together with nine other consortium partners aims to break down the barriers between academia and industry by developing a dedicated training programme for spanning boundary professionals.


The American author and entrepreneur Seth Godin said that “no organisation ever created an innovation. People innovate, not companies”. The Spanning Boundaries consortium believes that people are the most crucial factor in transferring knowledge and innovation across institutions, mobilising resources, triggering organisational change, and making an economic and societal impact in their regions. The Spanning Boundaries Training Programme therefore also aims to break down the engagement barriers between universities and business stakeholders by enabling the boundary spanning skills of the future agents of change.

The journey to create and deliver a training programme to help people to span boundaries from within their positions, departments and institutions began almost at the same time as the Spanning Boundaries project started, since the pilot testing of the concept was one of the main milestones for the consortium. The training programme kicked-off on the 8th of March 2021, with a preliminary session that introduced the participants into the 4-month course.

Between the months of March and June, the participants have been exposed to over 30 sessions with topics including the importance of university-business collaboration and the skills needed to become a boundary spanning agent, opportunity identification and resource acquisition, and cooperation with partners and knowledge transfer management. The schedule also included a co-creation hackathon whose goal was to help the participants produce novel solutions to real life challenges in the context of their Personal Application Projects (PAPs). The PAPs, which are formal and practical expressions of the specific objectives of each participant towards the course, were a fundamental concept of the programme. The finalisation, or at least the significant advancement, of the PAPs is an indispensable requirement to complete the programme. Furthermore, applicants are evaluated based on their PAP proposition, those with the best PAP proposals being the ones that were eventually selected as participants.

The format of the sessions varied depending on the content, being masterclasses, seminars and workshops the most usual ways of delivery, with additional fireside chats and inspirational talks with experts taking place at the end of each training day. The participants could attend the online sessions, download materials, and upload their assignments, through the purpose-built Spanning Boundaries Learning Platform, providing user-friendly design and technical support.

Each participant was assigned a mentor that would guide them throughout the whole programme, providing support with translating the learnings from the training into actionable steps towards the realisation of their PAP. The participants therefore also attended their mentoring sessions and worked closely with their assigned mentors to build and develop their PAPs.

Moreover, those who wanted to get an accreditation from UIIN had to submit assignments after each day of training. These assignments were designed to contribute to their PAPs and involved a variety of exercises such as developing a scanning mapping report of both their external and internal engagement environment or developing a cooperation manifesto in collaboration with the stakeholders and key partners of their PAPs, among others.

Now, the first pilot of the Spanning Boundaries Training Programme is coming to an end and something to look forward to is the Final Gala that will take place on the 10th of September. There, each participant will have the opportunity to pitch their Personal Application Project in front of a jury that will, at the end of the event, select the best PAP.

As organisers, we will continue working hard to prepare and deliver the second pilot of the programme, which runs from September 2021 to January 2022. We hope to find the same degree of engagement, commitment, and enthusiasm as the participants of the first cohort have brought in. All in all, it’s people who tip the scales towards success or failure, and there is no doubt these participants have turned the first pilot into a success.

Registration for the Autumn cohort open now: https://www.spanning-boundaries.eu/spanning-boundaries-training/

This training programme has been developed and carried out within the framework of the Spanning Boundaries Project, an Erasmus+ Knowledge Alliance project whose main goal is to empower and enable university and business professionals to make a stronger contribution to regional economic and social development by collaborating with each other and with their environments. To achieve so, the Spanning Boundaries Project provides knowledge, support, and tools for all those agents of change that want to achieve a greater impact through cooperation with other institutions.


Authored by José Villagran Polo, Junior Project Officer at UIIN
Edited by Catherine Hayward, Junior Project Officer at UIIN


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