We are excited to share the experiences of participants from our inaugural Spanning Boundaries Training Programme. The programme supported participants to break down the barriers between businesses and universities by equipping those at the forefront of this threshold with the skills they need to make these connections and become agents of change in their field. The programme kicked-off on 8th March this year and ran for four months. During this time participants, attended over 30 interactive sessions and worked on developing their Personal Application Projects (PAPs) – these are real-life challenge projects that participants work on throughout the programme.
Participants were, overall, hugely enthusiastic about their experiences. Prior to the programme, many of them were already acting as Spanning Boundary Agents in their day to day lives. Participants saw the Spanning Boundaries Training Programme as the perfect opportunity to bring their existing projects forward, as well as gaining the tools to effectively nurture relationships between those across different fields and functions – building mutual trust with the movers and shakers. Kathryn Lynch, Saara Inkinen, George Overbeck and Camila Heller, four Boundary Spanning Agents and graduates of the programme, have shared their experience about how their participation has helped them in their mission to bridge the gap between academia and industry.
Saara Inkinen, Technology Transfer and Innovation Management Consultant at Nordic Catalyst:
Saara Inkinen has been connected to the field of university-business cooperation (UBC) since 2005. She was first involved through her participation in industry-sponsored research, and for the past 10 years she has come to focus on technology transfer and innovation management. Saara is greatly enthused by UBC due to its dynamic and collaborative nature – ‘’at the big picture level, UBC is about addressing global challenges with scientific ideas, results, and inventions to achieve a lasting environmental, social, or societal impact. Innovation within innovation—what could be more exciting?’’. This Boundary Spanning Agent joined the programme to get new inspiration for her work and gain further contacts in universities, research organisations and companies from across Europe – ‘’the experience really exceeded my expectations, and the content was spot on for professionals in the technology transfer field!’’
Saara also enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the other programme participants personally, emphasising the importance of having a strong network in the technology transfer field. She particularly liked diversity of different UBC types that were highlighted in the programme and the fact that concrete examples were provided. During the programme, Saara was able to directly implement the ideas and learnings of the programme in her own work; as part of her Personal Application Project (PAP), she developed a new workshop model for technology transfer offices (TTOs) that helps them optimise their interactions with researchers.
Georg Overbeck, Head of FORTEC (Office for Research Support, Technology Transfer and Controlling) & Camila Heller Programme Coordinator SAFIR at Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt (THI):
George Overbeck & Camila Heller believe that standing still means falling behind. Both participants act as Spanning Boundary Agents in their day to day lives at Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt (THI), tackling problems and treating any issues that may arise between scientific and administrative staff, or between THI as a research facility and its partners from industry. Prior to participating in the programme, George and Camila felt that they were still missing a platform to jointly develop new theories, models, and methods to perform in this field. The Spanning Boundaries Programme allowed them to work in a community of practice alongside people of various backgrounds and with a variety of experiences, approaches, views and values, which they found extremely enriching. George and Camila, see themselves as working on the coalface between industry and academia, and recognised that it is unlikely for cooperation with top-level management to happen naturally – ‘’the Spanning Boundaries Programme taught us that it is essential to nurture these relationships, and build mutual trust together with the movers and shakers’’.
Kathryn Lynch, Innovator, Programme Manager & Strategist at Chronos Consulting Ltd:
Kathryn Lynch works as an independent consultant helping Irish Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) with their innovation processes. She always felt that there were lots of exciting things happening in academic research which could be of benefit to her clients, however, some of her clients had previously had bad experiences when trying to engage with academia or simply did not know where to start. Kathryn wanted to know more about academic collaboration and how to make it happen for her clients – ‘’with the inaugural ‘Spanning Boundaries’ programme, I seized the opportunity to learn more about the dynamics and mechanics of UBC’’. The programme taught ther that, when it comes to UBC across the world, everyone is in the same boat – academic institutions and SMEs are struggling to engage with each other in a consistent and meaningful way. Kathryn compared UBC to dating – ‘’key to successful collaboration, like dating, is taking the time to build a trusting relationship. It cannot be transactional or rushed; expectations and timelines can vary widely between the parties, so it is important to get clarity on these, up front, in order to create a long-term working relationship’’. Based on what she learned in the programme, Kathryn will recommend that her clients start small when it comes to UBC – perhaps with undergraduate projects – and to develop and grow the relationship with the institution that best suits their business and innovation ambitions.
Written with the input of Saara Inkinen, Georg Overbeck, Camila Heller and Kathryn Lynch
Edited by Tasha Day, Junior Project Officer at UIIN