The Commission has tested a new concept to promote demand-driven industry-academia knowledge exchange and uptake: the setting up of international co-creation teams of students and researchers to tackle companies’ research and innovation challenges. A recently published feasibility study shows the benefit.
Industry-academia interactions are key to knowledge valorisation. They foster a mutually benefitting exchange between knowledge generators and business actors, boost private investments in research, lead to more inventions and patents, facilitate the flow of latest technologies and talents into companies, enhance researchers’ and students’ skills and understanding of the market needs, and nurture an entrepreneurial mind-set.
In line with the new European Research Area and the European Skills Agenda, the study tested the feasibility of a co-creation-based model in a European-wide setup that complements the existing university-business collaboration schemes. Five international teams of students, researchers and enterprise representatives were set up. They followed a structured process guided by expert facilitators, which combined elements of design thinking, strategic foresight and systems thinking leveraging creativity from the diversity of the team.
The teams explored challenges related to business and society relevant phenomena, such as platform economy, alternative energy sources, Artificial Intelligence, business models and future consumer behaviour and values. The co-creation process produced concrete scenarios as well as product and service concepts to help participating companies to steer successfully their business and overcome the challenges.
The students who participated in the co-creation teams were highly satisfied. They could develop their personal skills in particular related to creativity, collaboration, entrepreneurship and critical thinking and in terms of presenting a positive image in front of future employers. The participating companies appreciated the experience and considered the co-creation team to be a significant new tool in the business development and in building interactions with academia.
The study clearly shows that the co-creation experience is relevant and adds value for all parties. In addition, it creates innovation sparks and ideas that act as inputs to the next stages of the innovation process.
The lessons learned and the experiences from the feasibility study will give input to the Guiding Principles for knowledge valorisation, which are being prepared, under the new European Research Area (ERA – action 7). The Guiding Principles will update and extend the 2008 Commission Recommendation on the management of intellectual property in knowledge transfer activities, including industry-academia knowledge exchange.