Cultivating connections: Griffith University on university-industry engagement
We are delighted to welcome our new Initiator member: Griffith University. Originally established in 1975 and now spanning five different campuses in Queensland on the east coast of Australia and a digital one, Griffith ranks in the top 2% of universities globally. We spoke about all things engagement with Danielle Godbier, Director (Industry and External Engagement), Dr. Peter Binks, Vice President (Industry and External Engagement), and Danielle Clarke, Senior Manager (Strategic Partnerships).
How did you come to know UIIN?
Danielle C: I attended the UIIN forum in Canberra last year and came away from it really excited about what we could do together in terms of building engagement within Griffith, Queensland as a state, and more broadly within Australia.
What have been some of Griffith’s success stories in university-industry engagement?
Danielle C: We have a great partnership with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), Australia’s largest bank, where we’re co-developing a program on financial crime investigation and compliance. We’re aiming to build a new industry benchmark for the banking sector in Australia and internationally as well, that over time will help protect the global financial system. We’ve brought a lot to the table for each other, and really developed that trust and reciprocity around the staff that we’ve been working with. The success of the CBA partnership has been, in part, because of three things: the responsiveness and agility of Griffith in being able to bring together key elements; being able to listen and understand CBA’s needs; and an aligned vision that the partnership can grow and strengthen from.
Danielle G: We also have a newly formed partnership with Sanofi, the University of Queensland, and Queensland Government to deliver a translational science hub for Queensland. This connects Queensland’s brightest minds to the world, initially utilising our laboratories and infrastructure with a focus on developing mRNA vaccines and health care solution vaccine. This partnership further enhances the biomedical ecosystem in Queensland for the State and was achieved through working with another university to highlight the great research capabilities that we have inside Griffith University. The real success of this is making sure that we best align our research work with Sanofi’s efforts and together the three organisations are setting up a global centre of excellence in Queensland, that will serve the State and Australia. Reflecting on these two partnerships, our relationship with CBA is about education and being able to provide a skills uplift for an industry sector, whereas the Sanofi partnership is much more focused on research.
The success of the CBA partnership has been in part because of Griffith’s responsiveness to actively listen and understand CBA’s needs and demonstrate that we have aligned visions”.
What are Griffith’s larger goals in terms of university-industry engagement?
Peter: The university is on an upward path; in recent years we’ve increased the calibre and the impact of our research, and we have also focused on the quality and reach of our teaching. To achieve these goals we knew we had to get our engagement mechanisms right.
Danielle C: What struck me when I first came to Griffith was the amazing amount of work – research, and teaching – that the university did in some really niche areas. Now that we’re building partnerships and demonstrating the impact these can have, I’m noticing a real shift in people’s confidence; they are talking about the engagement work they are doing and looking for opportunities to do more.
Danielle G: Yes, we’re confident now to engage with other players in our own backyard as we continue and building upon the great engagement across education and research within our institution, whilst staying aligned to the values of Griffith University for both practical and applied outcomes.
We’ve increased the calibre and the impact of our research, and we have also focused on the quality and reach of our teaching… we knew we had to get our engagement mechanisms right”.
Which challenges have you been faced with over the last years in driving university-industry engagement? And what have you done to overcome them?
Peter: A university is a unique institution which combines teaching, learning, research, and a whole range of other activities in different modes both physical and virtual. On top of that, we’re trying to add a set of skills around engagement, a lot of which is around relationship management – figuring out how two institutions can work together in a way that’s complementary and not conflicting. Developing that skill at all levels is really hard. Institutions often struggle to define what engagement is. We roughly translate it to “how you work with the outside world, the community, government etc.” Over the last two years, we have worked hard to translate this intent into activities for our researchers and teaching staff.
At Griffith we’re trying to lead the way and develop a distinctive way of doing engagement, that suits our University. In terms of future challenges, determining what the size and shape of our engagement activities will be for a university of our size, will be important.
Institutions often struggle to define what engagement is; we translate it to “how you work with the outside world”.
We can’t engage with every organisation out there; we are keen to engage and build lasting relationships with a group of institutions that share our values and ambitions, and with whom we can agree a set of outcomes to work towards. We’re excited by the partnerships we are building with Sanofi and the CBA, and are looking to put another 4-5 more major partnerships in place in the next few years.
Danielle Clarke, Dr. Peter Bink and Danielle Godbier
If you would like to know more about Griffith University and their partnerships, you can contact Danielle Godbier via email.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our podcast episodes Pathway to Impact – Measuring and Capturing the Engagement of Universities, and Strategic Partnerships – How Proximity and Colocation Drive Innovation.
Images credit: Griffith University
Lauren Kroemer-Pope (interviewer) is the Outreach and Partnerships Specialist at UIIN.
Madeline Arkins (editor) is a Project Officer at UIIN. In her work she focuses on topics relating to social impact and innovation in regional ecosystems.