Learning from international perspectives

Dutch Tropical Institute building in Amsterdam

The conference was held at the Dutch Tropical Institute - a beautiful old building in the sunny Amsterdam.

It’s been a while since I went to an event abroad and I wasn’t sure what to expect but the University-Industry Interaction Conference in Amsterdam turned out to be a unexpected hit.

The conference website seemed to place an emphasis on the interaction with industry which sounded good, but isn’t really the way we’ve approached things in Jisc. Our agenda is much more all-encompassing of different types of external partners, not just industry.

However, my colleagues attended a conference from the public engagement perspective recently, so it made sense to see what was happening internationally from the business side too.

A match made on dating websites

Not being a particularly good networker, I initially gravitated to the familiarity of fellow Brits.

As it turned out, one of them was David Docherty, the CEO of the new National Centre for Universities and Business, so it was a valuable contact to make

His presentation focused on his previous experience of running internet dating companies (an interesting perspective at a HE conference!).

From an online brokerage/matchmaking perspective, there are many similarities between single people looking for love and universities looking for the right business partners.

It was also pleasing to hear about his interest in our work at Jisc.

Similar challenges

The participants from 48 different countries made it a rich experience and we heard a vast number of parallel sessions from all over the world.

It was fascinating to hear how similar the challenges are, particularly within Europe. It was easy enough to swap notes with people from Portugal to Poland, Finland to Germany and my breaks were quickly filled with interesting chats.

Colleagues in Germany, for example, described a move from a more “traditional” approach on pushing out research outputs through patents and commercialisation, to a more collaborative approach where partners are involved at an earlier stage in co-development.

The result was increased commitment and “ownership” of the eventual outputs, and in fact increased income to the university from licensing and royalties.

Real value from informal conversations

Those kind of real benefits from collaboration are the stories really worth hearing. For me, it was these informal conversations that added that extra layer of value.

Whilst the formal conference sessions were very interesting, it would be great to somehow capture these informal conversations too – the day to day stories of how engagement has changed in different countries.

I’ve blogged about some of the national perspectives in more detail in our BCE team blog. There is also a post in which I talk more about the formal conference sessions, with studies including experiences from Switzerland to China and Russia.