12 March 2024

In today’s world, catching the wave of digital transformation became a necessity for industrial companies to stay competitive. One way to accelerate the process and nurture the industry learnings is to engage in University-Industry Collaboration (UIC).

Ehab Abu Sa'a, PhD student at the Division of Project, Innovations and Entrepreneurship.
Teiksma Buseva

University-Industry Collaboration (UIC) exists in Sweden, not only in one-to-one collaboration but also in consortiums, engaging several actors to collaborate with universities to benefit from the results and effects.

Ehab Abu Sa’a, PhD student at the Division Project, Innovations and Entrepreneurship, Linköping University and Fredrik Asplund, Associate Professor and Docent in cyber-physical systems at KTH Royal Institute of Technology have recently conducted research that is focusing on the value of UIC.

– This work goes beyond traditional research on the topic of University-Industry Collaboration which mostly focuses on knowledge transfer between university and industry. This study aimed to explore how UIC can enable cross-industry knowledge sharing in such collaborations, says Ehab Abu Sa’a, PhD student at the Division Project, Innovations and Entrepreneurship, Linköping University.

Cross learning and knowledge transfer

Companies from different industrial backgrounds may have different levels of knowledge and experiences related to common topics of interest. That creates an opportunity of cross learning and knowledge transfer between industrial partners. However, there is not much research on how to enable cross-industry knowledge sharing through UIC.

We found that different UIC structures facilitate the creation of common ground between industrial partners differently which enabled knowledge sharing among them.

The structure of UIC that focuses on research, developed common research agendas that served as a common meaning between partners. In turn, that created possibilities to share knowledge between industrial partners, mainly through structured events that facilitated knowledge sharing between conducted projects with different industrial partners. In contrast, the structure of UIC that focuses on networking, developed a platform of social network as a common ground that facilitated relationship building between different industrial partners, and possibilities of sharing knowledge informally among them.

– Having a none-competitive environment turned out to be a crucial enabler to cross-industry knowledge sharing in UIC consortiums. The durability of collaboration was a sign of stability, and it is not only important for relationship building but also for knowledge sharing among different actors, says Ehab Abu Sa’a.

The difference between universities and industries

Universities do a lot of scientific research and have different goals and timelines compared to industries. Universities focus on generalizing and publishing knowledge for the long term, while industries prioritize specific products and applications knowledge, often keeping information secret. This makes it challenging for knowledge to transfer and be put to use, not only from university to industry, but also between different industries.

Ehab Abu Sa'a.
Ehab Abu Sa'a, PhD student at the Division of Project, Innovations and Entrepreneurship.Teiksma Buseva

The research shows that it's important to acknowledge that technology advances quickly and that sharing knowledge between different industries in UIC’s has a lot of untapped potential. The accumulated experience and knowledge in one industry can be of significant benefit to companies in different industries venturing into new domains, saving them time and effort.

– This study shows the hidden value of UIC in enabling cross-industry knowledge sharing. It provides considerations for collaboration management to better understand how they can facilitate and enable such knowledge sharing and consequently leverage knowledge in UIC, says Ehab Abu Sa’a.

Given the complexity of integrating cutting-edge knowledge and building innovation capabilities, solutions are imperative. Understanding how UIC’s can foster cross-industry knowledge sharing is critical for maximizing the potential benefits of collaborative engagements.

Link to research abstract.

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