Vinayak Trivedi, Vice President and Global Head of Bentley Institute at Bentley Systems
The concept of partnerships between universities and companies is not a ground-breaking concept by any stretch of the imagination. This is partially due to the undeniable realisation that partnerships are critical drivers to the innovation economy. We just need to look at the likes of the Silicon Valley and Block 71 in Singapore to find examples of innovation ecosystems hallmarked by a community where universities, vendors, government, and entrepreneurs are all highly involved.
The alleged benefits of such partnerships are quite easy to grasp. Whether it’s about ensuring a strong pipeline of highly skilled graduates familiar with the tools and/or platforms used by leading organisations or gaining access to an extended academic workbench for research and development purposes, the tangible benefits make sense.
Yet while the aspirations of such partnerships can be easily articulated, the reality is that the many companies can find it hard to establish and run university partnerships effectively. Even in cases where the financial resources and intention are there, it is not uncommon for such partnerships to fall short of the initial vision.
Now to ask ourselves the critical question – why does this happen?
From the get-go, what needs to be acknowledged is that there is often a wide cultural gap between a university and the vendor. University culture, which is often characterised by high autonomy, does not necessarily align well to a corporate culture. Even in instances where the expected output, ways of working, and format of engagement have clearly been outlined, the outcome will often not meet expectations.
In order for such collaborations to be successful, both parties need to be aligned. This isn’t merely the act of signing a contractual agreement to X and Y, but a mutual connection to the overarching vision and strategy. The premise here is that by aligning both parties to the holistic vision and strategy, both sides will be equipped to approach said work with purpose whilst feeling empowered to take action.
Realistically speaking, a lot of this work should have occurred prior to an official partnership between a university and vendor. Whether it’s be exploring your existing network of contacts or by evaluating those that you have worked with previously, this is a valuable opportunity to gain insights into ways of working and potential alignment.
Take for example, Bentley’s recent partnership with Griffith University. On paper, while this academic partnership may have only been officially announced late last year, this was actually the result of previous smaller and more agile collaborations which lead to this point. Bentley’s agreement with Griffith also includes the induction of a Bentley Development Lab to ensure that students are learning software tools that are highly sought after within the industry
Not only does achieving alignment ensure that the outcomes of the partnership match expectations, but it also paves the way for more dynamic partnerships. For example, Bentley Systems has partnerships with Swinburne University and Bond University where the focus is on the curriculum and ensuring that future students are being equipped actually sought by the industry.
When it comes to tertiary education and ensuring Australia’s skills pipeline, collaborations between educational institutions and industry vendors are a vital element. The past year has only served to highlight how quickly things can change overnight, making it even more important for these partnerships to be truly collaborative and dynamic.