In Japan, promotion of university-industry collaboration has been a key topic at many levels since the early 90’s, and especially since 2004 when all the former national universities became semi-privatized.
With this drastic reform in Japanese higher education in 2004, Japanese former national universities need to be transformed into a new mode of knowledge creation. With the increased autonomy in each university, now it is much easier for individual universities to seek cooperation with industry. Indeed, it is said that this reform was first proposed to make this collaboration easy (Prior to the privatization, professors at national university were civil servants and thus were not allowed to work elsewhere).
In the industrialized countries, technical innovation has become the main force for competitiveness. This results in a much stronger participation of industry in research and development (R & D). In industrialized countries, the participation of universities in R & D projects for industry has become key activity. Though in Japan, this trend is also apparent with 67% of research being financed by big companies, traditionally most of these universities have been the private ones.
Now under new regulations, newly privatized former national universities have a freedom to participate in this university-industry cooperation. Not only does university-industry cooperation will lead to a creation of knowledge-based society, this strategy could result in a win-win situation for both stakeholders, university and industry.
First, Japanese national universities can now target research and education to actual needs of the society which will strengthens the position of the university in the society and bring financial benefits. Also, they can mitigate their newly added financial constraint from not receiving subsidy from the Ministry of Education. Through university-industry collaboration, universities can use companies’ resources and expertise which may be up-to-date than those found in their universities.
And last but not least, universities can finally develop skills and resources for transferring research results to end users. Traditionally, knowledge generated in universities tended to just sit in an ivory tower without being utilized in a real world. Through university-industry collaboration, universities can learn the strategy to convey their newly generated knowledge to the society.
There are many benefits for industry as well. First and foremost, they can obtain top-notch information on recent developments in science and technology. Having direct access to research results will enable industry to develop more competitive products and services.
Sounds wonderful, right? Yep, this university-industry collaboration seems as though it could be a panacea for everyone and everything. It is actually a pretty good deal.
But! (and there is always “but”) there are a few things that we might want to be careful and keep in our mind when promoting this strategy.
I will talk about those points tomorrow…