Saturday, May 08, 2010

Research Collaboration: Orientation to the Future

Research Collaboration: Orientation to the Future

Any experiences you may have had in the past good or bad with collaborations? Would you manage things differently now?

The impetus for my taking on these studies was an APEC Asian Research Project Proposal that came my way via linkedin and a former Wollongong resident now manager of a Boutique NGO recruitment business in Bonn, Germany. He had found my listing which includes training in operations and research management already through my studies at UOW and Concordia/FITT (Forum for International Trade Training Canada) which would have been applicable to the TOR requirements of a Pan Asian analysis of operational food security provisions.

Following the proposal rejection after application and approval process which took a few months I realized the best way to capitalize on such a marvellous missed opportunity was to acquire more training in the role of an RM to add curbside appeal to my already excellent future potential usefulness to similar organisations who might be found fishing around Korea in future. As Paige recommended at the beginning of the course by trying to imagine the role of RM as an impending future reality ~ something I wouldn't mind juggling parallel to my teaching position ~ I look forward to realization of such a goal by positioning myself here in Korea as perhaps one of the rare few who might then hold such qualifications without having had to leave here or sacrifice gainful employment to achieve in the meantime.

Discuss any issues that may occur when running a research project funded by both an industry collaborator and a seperate unrelated grant.

Many of you have mentioned here the potential pitfalls of a multi-sponsored research project including the competitive interests of business versus researcher goals namely the possible divide between commercially viable and IP protected or academically publishable and socially beneficial knowledge sharing results and the conflicting milestones which might prevent benefits for both without sacrificing one facet or goal of joint venture research over the other. The other perspective is that you might end up running two seperate projects which might see conflicts in terms of informational cross-over which might tend to encourage some forms of moral hazard.

To address Paige's issues regarding moving from informal to formal terms of cooperation and collaboration one might easily consider the generally accepted practice of recommended export practices and procdures. Appreciate any comments to see whether these procedural issues have any actual cross-over.

1. Where one could compare a university to a domestic economy or at least at times smaller cities those rare instances of external or export sales/short-term contract collaborations will provide a company or research department with a record of transactions and/or potential industry partners when seeking larger scale collaborations in future. It would seem reasonable to expect collaborators to proceed on a mutual interests level of progressive gains over time.

2. To pursue foreign market oriented sales or further industry research collaborations many companies/universities often need to employ new middle management team techniques and more warm bodies to ensure the goals of future research collaboration growth are being met at the level of which core decision makers may have overall control. Many researchers would need to delegate and designate an RM other than the lead researcher out of a lack of extra time above and beyond their regular duties to solicit or respond to unsolicited enquiries, stack a date book of future projects well in advance of milestones for larger scale future exports or research collaborations.

3. Focusing on a key market for future export or research collaboration itself requires significant market research itself in terms of research competitors and dynamic global environments as others have pointed out. Decision makers might not need to rely exclusively on subject matter experts or even core research personnel if they possess the resources to hire consultants in country or to canvass the corporate world to provide new contacts and possible corporate research funding leads then they are recommended to do so.

4. Possibly the best university to corporate research collaborations rely heavily on key contact relationships which may have evolved personally over lifetimes of friendship, professional association, university alumni groups, etc. Regardless of the actual contractual details if there are not strong extra-curricular linkages for many I'm sure the research scale will remain minimal in its synergies. While many of our paper readings this week suggested otherwise, face to face contact is still integral if not with regular site visits then through localized up and downstream research consortia which appear not dissimilar to supplier-based JIT systems in terms of factory and industrial site collocations all over Asia. The same appears to be happening in Australia with the increased incidence of incubator and innovation parks adjacent to university sites. This cannot be a coincidence and makes for cozy bedfellows I'm sure.

5. While the financing and budgets of the research itself need to be closely monitored no small scale collaboration will evolve into a large and long term association or joint venture until real profits are being generated. No increasing scale of budgets will be supported without direct industry or consumer adoption or utilisation of the results of the research. This is the corporate monkey mantra: See no results, Hear no results, Have no more bananas. While I realize there are many academics who would be quite satisified to make repeated progress without commercial results aside from possible CSR or dog and pony shows (as BP's recent scandal fueled Gulf of Mexico gaff indicates) even essential corporate research is often overlooked or under-performed.

In another word: Toyota.

6. It is the RM's responsibility to look beyond the actual terms of agreement to forsee future problems before they are encountered and some understanding of corporate terms of agreement such as binding versus non-binding letters of intent and possible tutelage in the agreements on general terms and conditions terminology as well as consultation with a university lawyer would probably be of benefit to any future RM on campus.

These would be some of the steps in accessing a foreign export market. Is there not some alignment with RM collaboration needs?

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