A renewed focus on innovation: Oslo Metropolitan University
We would like to warmly welcome one of our new Initiator members, Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet), to the UIIN Community. We had the pleasure to sit down with Rūta Žmuidzinaitė, Steinar Olberg and Karoline Aursland representing the Innovation team, based at the Research and Development Department on a central level, as they share with us their focus and what brought them to UIIN.
UIIN: Tell us about Oslo Metropolitan University and the work you are doing around innovation.
OsloMet: Oslo Metropolitan University is the third largest university in Norway and the focus of our education lies within the professions, such as teaching, nursing, and engineering. Collaborating with and supporting the public sector is a key focus of ours, therefore bachelor’s and master’s degrees that we have are mainly within this sector.
Innovation, however, is still relatively new at the University, and up until our team was established a few years ago, it hasn’t been a priority area, thus since then we have learned a lot. We are proud to share that within just the last year there have been huge changes regarding the focus on innovation across the board – including our researchers, leadership and students. As you can imagine, there is then an increased need for working on innovation and collaboration with both industry and public sector.
You mentioned a lot of changes that you’ve seen among leadership, students and academics. Do you mean in terms of mindset or in terms of awareness?
Both. In the past year, the possibility to get external funding from public funding sources in Norway has decreased, which resulted in the need to find alternative ways to get funding for research and to connect more closely with external partners. With our new Rector at OsloMet, we have seen a shift in mindset with an increased focus on innovation. To further meet the needs for that focus and have a dedicated leader to drive our work on innovation and collaboration, we have also created a new leadership position of Vice-Rector for Societal Impact.
What would you say are the university’s goals when it comes to collaboration or innovation?
We aim to be the university in Norway that is the most open and easy to collaborate with as well as to increase the impact of our research and knowledge – either in industry, public sector, or society as a whole. Furthermore, we are working on a strategy with the ambition of seeing OsloMet in the longer future, perspective of 10-50 years from now. We are asking ourselves critical questions based on big trends and mapping out the role that OsloMet will play in this future – innovation will surely take a huge part. This approach is quite different to our current short-term strategy, but we have noticed that a long-term vision will allow us to visualise more clearly the ways in which OsloMet will impact the Norwegian society. We are excited to think about what our long-term goals are and what lies ahead for us.
What is something that your team is proud of achieving?
We are driven by creating impact. One of the reasons why we go to work every day is because we are supporting and bringing forward the success stories created at OsloMet. Among other things we work with evaluating new ideas, establishing innovation projects, building internal culture for innovation as well as creating structure around entrepreneurial initiatives at our university.
Which challenges have you faced over the years in terms of university-industry or university-public sector collaboration, and growing innovation?
We have encountered challenges with getting our leadership and researchers on board with our increased focus on innovation and collaboration. Although we are aligned that these key areas are important to shift our focus to, it is challenging to agree on the definition of innovation and exactly what that entails.
When it comes to collaboration, our wish is better cooperation with both industry and the public sector. However, there are certain challenges that we have experienced with getting the system set up and moving collaborations from private (i.e., researcher collaborating with a business or specific municipality) to an institutional collaboration with OsloMet. Since our institution has a large focus on the public sector, some of our private sector collaborations have created a lot of discussion and engagement around the strategic focus and impact of these collaborations.
In addition, the new position of Vice Rector for Societal Impact is created to make it clear both externally and internally who has a responsibility for collaborations and is the first point of contact on an institutional level.
What were your main reasons for joining UIIN and are there any specific topics and areas you’d like to learn more about?
Ruta and Steinar attended the conference last year in Amsterdam and felt very inspired by it. We took that experience back with us and explained to the team that this is a community that we can learn from. In particular, we are excited to learn more about the commercialisation process, collaboration, licensing agreements and TTO functions and learn from how other universities’ approach related challenges. For instance, we would be interested to hear more about how other universities organise their support system on innovation at the central and local level. Social innovation is also one of the themes that we would like to discuss with the others more about, as we are in the process of structuring the support system at our University around this as well.
Any final words to the UIIN Community?
We are looking forward to learning and collaborating with other institutions in the UIIN Community. We are willing to share and exchange knowledge on the insights from collaboration with the public sector, with the desire to learn more about collaboration with the private sector.
Would you like to get in touch?
You can contact Ruta Žmuidzinaitė directly via email.
Images credits: OsloMet