On 25th June, the SFI funded Studying Peer Review in Grants (SPRING) project held a symposium on ‘New Modes of Engaging University Industry Collaborative Research’.

This event, which was hosted by the Innovation Value Institute (IVI) and Technology Adoption Group (TAG) at Maynooth University, explored the increasing focus in Ireland on academic industry collaborations (AIC) as well as experiences and best practice in achieving effective AIC and its evaluation. Topics included the relevant public policies, funding and support mechanisms, and academic/industry experiences and learnings in relation to such collaborations. The symposium was organised as a series of talks, Q&As and break-out sessions, and was co-chaired by Professor Brian Donnellan (Vice President of Engagement & Innovation and PI on the Technology Adoption Group at MU) and Professor Kalpana Shankar (PI on the SFI funded SPRING Project at the School of Information & Communication Studies UCD). The symposium comprised of invited attendees with experience and/or expertise of AIC and guest speakers Dr Alison Campbell (Director of Knowledge Transfer Ireland), Professor David Wastell (Emeritus Professor in Operations Management and Information Systems at Nottingham University), and Professor Andrew Van De Ven (Professor Emeritus in the Carlson School of the University of Minnesota.

Kalpana Shankar began the event by introducing the SPRING project and its aims and goals to examine the peer review process and outcomes of grant funding using the case of SFI. She overviewed the suite of methods being employed to achieve the project’s objectives including document analysis, agent based modelling and in-depth interviews with relevant stakeholders. Co-chair Brian Donnellan introduced his role as VP of engagement and innovation in MU and discussed his Technology Adoption Group as a team situated at the intersection of industry and academia, delivering both practice orientated and academic focused contributions within the area of digital technology adoption challenges.

The keynote speaker for the day was Dr. Alison Campbell, director of Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI). Dr. Campbell began with a brief history of policy and support mechanisms in Ireland in relation to academic industry collaborations and introduced the mission of KTI to maximise innovation from state funded research by supporting and facilitating effective engagement between industry and academia that leads to knowledge transfer and its valorisation. Dr Campbell discussed some of the policy and support mechanisms at KTI to achieve this mission including the National Intellectual Property (IP) Protocol, range of online templates and information provision tools to optimise academic industry engagements. Alison concluded her keynote by reflecting on some of her experiences and learnings over the years in relation to academic industry engagements.

Next, Dr Shane McLoughlin (LERO and TAG at MU) introduced the objectives of the SPRING project collaboration with Maynooth University. Dr McLoughlin, along with MU collaborator Dr Clare Thornley (IVI at MU) are exploring the practice, experience and perceptions of a range of industry, academic and policy stakeholders in relation to academic industry collaborations, in order to better understand how evaluative and policy mechanisms can best support such collaborations. Dr McLoughlin described the methodology and preliminary insights from in-depth interviews with stakeholders. He concluded by introducing attendees to the topics for discussion at the subsequent break-out sections where attendees participated in focused discussions around key themes emerging from the interview stage; ‘Learnings & Knowledge Transfer’, ‘Learnings from Challenges and Failures’, ‘Learnings & Evaluative Metrics’ and ‘Learnings for Early Career Researchers’. These sessions were facilitated by the SPRING team including Prof Kalpana Shankar, Dr Lai Ma, Thomas Feliciani, Dr Clare Thornley, Dr Shane McLoughlin and Dr Junwen Lao.

In the afternoon, Professor David Wastell from Nottingham University gave his talk entitled, ‘Stopping the Unstoppable Juggernaut of the ICS: the Realpolitik of Engaged Scholarship’, in which he reflected on his research engagements with various public sector and industry projects over the years. Prof Wastell focused on the value of socio-technical research in identifying, understanding and developing knowledge and learnings in relation to information systems interventions such as the introduction of the Integrated Childrens System (ICS) in the UK, and highlighted some of the issues and challenges when engaging with these sectors in achieving impact of research.

Prof Andrew Van De Ven from the University of Minnesota was the last invited speaker, and presented his talk entitled, ‘Engaging in University-Industry Collaborative Research’, in which he discussed the contributions of his book ‘Engaged Scholarship; A Guide for Organizational and Social Research ’ (Oxford Univ. Press, 2007) which won the 2008 Terry best book award from the Academy of Management. His talk focused on his developed methodology for engaged scholarship that aims to achieve both rigour and relevance when engaging between academia and practice. Prof Van De Ven also spoke about sustaining creativity and commitment in academic industry collaboration, and concluded by emphasizing that collective and collaborative approaches to knowledge production can yield greater benefits to both researchers and their research contributions.

The Symposium’s closing statements from co-chairs Prof Shankar and Prof Donnellan presented key learnings from the break-out sessions and key outcomes from the overall symposium respectively, followed by a networking event. The organisers, Dr Shane McLoughlin & Dr Clare Thornley would like to thank all those who attended and contributed to the day, including attendees, speakers and those who assisted in the organisation of this event