In today’s technological world, developed countries are pondering over the possibilities of living on the moon. However, developing countries are still lagging behind in terms of technological advancements and innovations, which continue to impact their overall standard of life.
This is predominantly because of the weak linkage between academia and industry. Academia is occupied by academics with higher qualification while the industry is dominated by professionals with the standard 16 years of education. The academics are immersed in their research activities. They are mostly interested in research publications and tend to ignore – intentionally or unintentionally – the practical aspect of their research. Meanwhile, industry professionals underestimate the academics as they earn good money.
Most countries embrace development due to the strong linkage between the academia and industry. Universities are considered to be the core avenues for modernisation where people with a diverse range of experiences are available to demonstrate ideas for development and economic progress. Academic research attracts greater innovation within the industry. The immediate duty of academia and the industry is community development, nation-building and socio-economic development.
In Japan, industry is based on academia. In the US, different organisations and companies showcase their research projects on the very first day of the academic calendar to attract students to conduct research in collaboration with them. For example, university researchers in Texas are developing a magnetic nanoparticle that aims to make offshore water treatment more efficient – and possibly more economical. Such collaborative research is fruitful for the individual, the company and, ultimately, for the state.
In developed countries, the industry demonstrates the necessity to involve academics with them. For example, in the US, a new agreement between Google, Microsoft, Sun Systems and UC Berkeley reflects the significance of industrial funding to academia in upholding and advancing cutting-edge research.
The academia-industry linkage aims to commercialise academic research and ensure economic progress for all stakeholders, including companies/organisations, academia and the public. In developing countries like Pakistan, the linkage between academia and industry is feeble. The major reason for this is the lack of research motivation, incentives, awareness, government commitment and industry motivation to collaborate with universities.
The HEC is striving to promote research culture in higher education institutions. This is reflected through the improvement in the ranking of Pakistani universities across the world. The frail linkage can be made stronger through policy reforms to encourage academics to partake in commercial or industrial activities.
Academic institutes should conduct industry-oriented research so that the research can be used for the benefit of the state. The indigenous industry should invest in projects that are in the interest of the state by collaborating with domestic academics. Such research projects needs to be conducted to prevent social and economic concerns. Academics with strong industry collaboration will be in a position to produce and generate innovation and strengthen the research-based, home-grown industry.
Academics should write and plan research projects considering the business potential. Such collaborations can assist the industry to recruit the potential candidates in coordination with the concerned faculty and university. The collaboration can also utilise human resources in the form of interns and can groom them with hands-on training in the industry. There will be research and industry-oriented human resource.
The academia-industry linkage is the fundamental unit of the innovation system which is, ultimately, the need of the hour. Academic research should take into consideration the market demand and the importance of the research for society.
In Pakistan, academia and industry collaboration is not strong. The stakeholders are working independently. No such encouraging steps are taken to reduce the gap between industry and academia. Although some professors are working as consultants and industry professionals are teaching in universities.
China has launched a programme titled the ‘UK-China Industry Academia Partnership Programme’ to construct bilateral industry-academic ties to enable Chinese universities to upgrade their research and innovation output by strengthening industry linkages and creating links with expertise in the UK. This programme also aims to create ties between innovation stakeholders in both countries. The government of Pakistan should strive to initiate such collaboration with China and other friendly countries to promote academia and industry on an international level.
Regular meetings, conferences, seminars, workshops, symposium should be conducted between academics and industry stakeholders. Academics and industry stakeholders should acclimate themselves with developments within each other’s spheres. MoUs should be signed between academic institutions and industries. Academic institutes should impart market-based technical skills through strong coordination with industries. In a nutshell, the academia-industry linkage will be developed through a healthy combination of academia, industry and government initiative to ensure the transformation of research findings into commercially viable technological innovations.
The writer is a lecturer in the department of geology at the University of Swabi.