By Anne Kershaw
How to replicate Ontario’s success in engaging industry to work with academia to drive economic development and innovation was on the agenda of a major higher education conference attended by OCE President Tom Corr this month.
“Australia as a country is about identifying and adopting best practices from around the world. They are very open about and receptive to new ideas,” says Dr. Corr.
Speaking on a panel about Industry, Engagement and Innovation, Dr. Corr shared OCE’s experiences as an organization that has for almost three decades been dedicated to building industry-academic engagements. His Australian audience was particularly interested in OCE’s business development model and how it goes about bringing researchers together with industry to solve real-world problems.
“They want to go in a similar direction and make it easier for industry to engage with universities. However, they are struggling with the current reality that in many cases neither industry nor taxpayers are aware of the value that can be obtained from academic research. “
The Australian Education Minister’s recently announced plans for budget reductions for universities and research was an unsettling backdrop to the conference. “There was a sense that the academic community needed to do a better job of conveying the value of what they do and how they can engage with industry to drive innovation.”
While in Australia, Dr. Corr saw all facets of the country’s innovation system, touring its National Innovation Centre at the Australian Technology Park and meeting with key players including CEO of the Australian Research Council, President of the Australian Academy of Technological Services, Chief Scientist of Australia and the President of the University of Newcastle.
Dr. Corr found many were impressed with the breadth of mandate and program offerings “all under one roof” at Ontario Centres of Excellence, ranging from applied research to internships to seed money for start-ups. “There is no one organization there like OCE to identify potential collaborations and support the commercialization process”. Another difference was the level of integration of government programs. “We have made a lot of progress in establishing a whole-of-government approach that makes it easier for entrepreneurs to access funding support for innovative technologies and companies”.
Our overall message was the emphasis we put on identifying projects that will promote economic development through job creation, sales and global competitiveness. “Only those bringing economic potential as well as first class, ground-breaking research to the table will meet our criteria,” he told delegates to the Australian higher education conference.