Wednesday, 31 January 2018

How Industry And Academia Must Work Together For Mutual Benefit

The collaboration between industry and academia has been a hot topic of debate ever since the industrial age dawned with the invention of the steam engine. So much so that one may be forgiven for believing that there exists a conflict of interest between the two. You might think that industry and universities seek different objectives.

The narrow view is that industry focuses only on its survival in the brutal market whereas universities are more focused on imparting knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Industry is driven by material success, unlike universities that engender a culture of research and development to their students. This so-called conflict of interest is what makes the relationship between industry and academia a somewhat tenuous one at times. But this is the wrong way to look at this linkage. Rather this is a truly mutually-beneficial arrangement that is essential to the long-term success of both parties.

This is a symbiotic relationship in the truest sense. The practical view is that the world of academia serves as a proving ground to create the talent pool that industry needs in order to progress. They provide well-trained, enthusiastic, energetic, and inquisitive students who are eager to make their mark in the industry. In turn, before the students are industry ready, the universities expect industry to provide them with practical exposure and an opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge to practice.

There are also ample opportunities for learning from each other. Corporate veterans have the benefit of experience and practical knowledge and the universities and students have exposure to new methodologies and a flood of innovative ideas. Students can learn from the guidance that industry can provide. This helps them expand the scope of their knowledge and temper it with a bit of real-world realism. Industry, in turn, can incorporate these fresh ideas and methodologies into their own ways of working. Every now and then, industry needs that breath of fresh air to sweep out age-old ideas and obsolete methodologies.

Creating a mutual relationship is vital for both industry and academia. Such collaborations provide:

  1. Amalgamation of Different Cultures

Many companies look forward to tie-up with different universities for their academic and internship programmes which brings different cultures together. Students from different universities get to share space and ideas with each other. This amalgamation of students from different educational backgrounds and culture proves beneficial for the industry. As for students, they get exposure to the working culture in different industries and learn from the leaders out there.

  1. Industry-Ready Workforce

Among the biggest challenges for a growing economy like India is the availability of talent to take up key industry roles. The key issue is volume – with growth comes the need for hundreds of thousands of keen minds and active hands. As academia strives to educate these students industry must strive to train them. The end objective is a steady pipeline of people with both the theoretical knowledge and the practical skills that industry needs.

  1. Research and Development

Academia is well placed to help solve the pressing problems of industry with inventions and innovative approaches. This calls for a collaborative effort to identify the key issues that must demand attention. An ongoing partnership is needed as academia seeks opportunities to apply scientific rigour to isolating the problems, addressing the root causes, and providing workable solutions. This may also call for funding from industry as some of these issues may take time and effort to address.

If a true partnership is forged, the benefits are many.
  1. For Industry:
·         Creating an enduring talent pool
·         Having access to student research at university level
·         Long-term relationship with students
·         Optimizing the work methodologies in line with the latest trends
·         Saving resources on employee training
·         Creating a brand value in the market

  1. For Students:
·         Exposure to the actual working of an industry
·         Securing their future with assured employment
·         Enhancing work and management skills
·         Funding and real-world testing opportunities for their research

The industry can collaborate with universities in many different ways such as:

  • Internships: Allowing students to work for a short period of time to gain insights into how the real world functions and to get experience on the job.
  • Job-integrated study programs: Providing learning and personal development opportunities for their existing staff for specific courses as required or demanded by the job.

In our rapidly changing times, such collaboration is going to get increasingly more important. It’s a coming together of complementary forces that have so much to offer to the betterment of the other party that any other way would just be illogical. And say what you will, neither Industry nor Academia can be accused of following a path that is illogical!

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