Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile: Building Internal Capacity to Enhance External Engagement
It is our pleasure to welcome and introduce Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC), one of UIIN’s newest organisational members. Ranked the Nº 1 University in Latin America in the QS World University Rankings, PUC aspires to achieve excellence in the creation of knowledge, but also the transfer of knowledge. We therefore had the pleasure of speaking with Verónica Kramm, Head of Industry Liaison at the School of Engineering, about the University’s efforts in facilitating and enhancing external engagement for successful knowledge and technology transfer.
With five campuses across Chile, PUC is made up of 18 faculties that together cover all areas of knowledge. While the central Tech Transfer Office looks after the identification, protection, and subsequent transfer of research results, the Industry Liaison office at the School of Engineering focuses on supporting academics and professors in facilitating collaboration with industry and the public sector.
The Industry Liaison Office predominantly supports academics in applications for grants and projects, by helping with proposal writing, providing insights on how to approach and interact with companies and developing processes to streamline the application process. Recently, plans are being made to provide courses to professors about industry processes, company culture and how innovation occurs inside a company, as this differs from academia. The office also invests in training for its professional staff to improve the way they support their professors in enhancing their partnerships. “By training our professors and building the capacity we aim to enhance the engagement in industry collaborations, which subsequently might lead to more funded projects”, tells Verónica.
By training our professors and building the capacity we aim to enhance the engagement in industry collaborations, which subsequently might lead to more funded projects”
Not only does the Industry Liaison Office provide support in promoting opportunities and applying to grants, but it also actively builds bridges between companies and academics. The team for instance accompanies academics to meetings with prospective partners, and continues the support after the meetings, for instance working together on a funding proposal. Further in the process, when an academic has created a new technology, the office helps in the transfer to the company, including IP protection and licensing. As Verónica explains: “We are involved in the whole collaboration process from the beginning when a professor starts talking with the company, till the end when the technology is actually being transferred out of the university”.
A main driver for university-industry engagement are the government grants that are provided each year to support research and development (R&D). Establishing university-industry collaborations without grants or at an early stage of innovation, however, appears to be challenging, since Chilean companies are generally risk-averse – and even more so because of the uncertainties caused by the pandemic. Most companies in Chile therefore prefer to work with more mature technologies that are at a higher technology readiness level or have already been commercialised.
Creating commitments for early-stage innovations remains difficult but building trust over time can help facilitate these relationships. For instance, companies with an already established relationship with an academic are more likely to get involved in discovery-type research. These relationships with trusted partners make companies more open to collaborate as well as ready to invest in new technologies.
We are involved in the whole process from the beginning when a professor starts talking with the company, till the end when the technology is actually being transferred out of the university”
With trust being a key element in creating successful partnerships, Verónica also aims to learn more about how academics can create trusted relationships with industry, as well as how to promote technology transfer within the university. One approach of the Industry Liaison Office is to have conversations with professors to better understand how they can facilitate the transformation from publishing to developing, which is also about creating an entrepreneurial mindset. To further support and encourage collaboration, the Industry Liaison Office has recently started celebrating and recognising academics on successful collaborations via email and bi-monthly newsletters.
A successful collaboration structure of the Industry Liaison Office entails the involvement of companies in Engineering students’ capstone projects, where they provide challenge-based learning opportunities to the students, by letting them solve specific issues of the company. The Industry Liaison Office is currently focused on building on its existing relationships and establishing more holistic and strategic partnerships, where the office maintains the collaboration and helps link different parts of the School to solve the company’s needs. If a company then wishes to develop a product, work with students, or provide courses to employees, the office can provide them with everything they need from the School of Engineering and be the central point of contact for all interactions. The University has already established seven of these strategic partnerships with both the public and private sector.
The Industry Liaison Office is also looking to expand collaborations outside of Chile – starting with Latin America – to create more opportunities internationally. Verónica therefore looks forward to connecting with the UIIN Community as a chance to learn more about other regions and global practices. “I think it is a great opportunity for us to enter a new community where we can get support and collaborate with others that are doing the same as us”.
Want to learn more about Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and the Industry Liaison Office or share any thoughts?
Get in contact with Verónica Kramm via email.
Image credits: Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile