Systematizing University-Industry Cooperation: The Case of AIMday in Sweden



Amidst the transition from ivory towers to a more responsive and engaged institutions, universities of the 21st century are opening their doors to external actors. In that they are increasingly viewing other public and private entities in the community as their key allies in the process of knowledge production and application. Within this broader context supporting intra and inter organizational collaborations is becoming increasingly common amongst today’s universities. The AIMday initiative at Uppsala University tries to systematize this much needed university-industry interaction by organizing a series of well-designed workshops in various disciplinary areas. The purpose is creating a platform where not only some of the pressing issues of the participants from the public and private sector are tackled but also further collaborative endeavours are envisaged.

The initiative was created by Ångström Academy within Uppsala University Innovation (UUI) simply because such a forum that engages the academic staff of the university with the actual needs of the industry was largely missing. Ever since its first launch in 2008, AIMday has come a long way in terms of developing its reputation, with countries such as the UK, South Africa and Canada piloting the idea within their context.

Q&A sessions to facilitate academia-industry interaction

The planning of the event starts by contacting prospective companies that might have an interest to take part in the workshop. Under the motto “one question, one hour, one group of experts”, UUI asks participants to contribute questions that will be discussed up on. Close to one hour is spent by the group of academic experts from the university side and company representatives from the business side during the workshops in addressing each of the selected questions. While some of the companies could find solutions during the workshop, more value is assigned to the process by UUI. This is so in the belief that the discussion and interaction could lead to joint projects. In fact, solving the problems raised by the companies during the actual conference is considered “bonus” by UUI.

A very interesting feature of the initiative is that participating companies in collaboration with their academic counterparts at Uppsala University could apply for funding from the UUI during the workshop. The UUI mainly finances the pre-studies phase of smaller joint collaborative projects, with large scale projects generally redirected to other national and supranational grants.

As part of the efforts to monitor the impact of these forums, UUI undertakes a follow up discussion with the participating organizations a month after the conclusion of the event, and at times further support is provided for the collaborating institutions.

Transferability of the AIMday concept

The simplicity of its concept and discussion based approach to investigation for collaboration has helped AIMday to grow in popularity across Sweden and beyond. While the number of participants (an annual average of 46.5 company representatives and 83 researchers) and events (over 45 since 2008) are growing rapidly, the theme of the event has also expanded over time covering a host of topics ranging from materials to patient’s safety. The relative ease of organizing such an event almost in any research field coupled with the relevance and urgency of bringing universities and business together to spur innovation makes the AIMday initiative transferable to other regions.

 

Do you want to learn more about the activities within AIMday initiative? Please have a look at the original case study here.

This blog is based on a case study originally written by Pierre Lindman (Technopolis Group)

©all rights on images used in this article belong to AIMday.

 

Meet the authors



Habtamu Diriba
Habtamu Diriba is a graduate of the Erasmus Mundus Masters in Research and Innovation in Higher Education (MaRIHE). Before joining the MaRIHE programme, he has completed a two year graduate study in Business Administration (MBA) at Jimma University. His research interests mainly consist of topics relating to university entrepreneurship & innovation, higher education governance & policy, and internationalization. Habtamu has presented on multiple international conferences including winning the ‘Outstanding paper award’ at the 38th EAIR conference in Birmingham, UK.