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Student-Business Collaboration A Growing Topic – Notes From The UB Forum Brussels

Student-Business collaboration a growing topic – notes from the UB Forum Brussels

Rapporteur Notes – WORKSHOP 4.1: Partnerships in Action

5th University-Business Forum, Brussels
Hosted by the European Commission, 4th – 5th June, 2013



Established in 2011, Knowledge Alliances were designed to bridge the gap between higher education and business. Knowledge Alliances are structured partnerships that bring together higher education and business on a common project tackling common challenges. The strength of this approach is the quality and commitment of the partnership and the value of true knowledge exchange and the trust this generate between the two sectors for mutually beneficial and innovative outcomes. These projects can cover any given sector and topic. In this session, business and academic representatives from the first three pilot projects – ending summer 2013 – will discuss how they developed innovative approaches to education, learning, entrepreneurship and knowledge exchange and what challenges and outcomes have resulted from their collaboration. Stakeholders and those interested in taking part in future Knowledge Alliances are invited to share their experiences and to take part in the discussion.

Moderator: Mr Jacek Guliński, Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education, Poland



  • EUEN – Mr Gideon Maas, Director of Institute of Applied Entrepreneurship, Coventry University
  • Richard Kirkwood, Chief Technologist from HP
  • KNOWFACT – Mr Dimitris Mavrikios, Project Manager, University of Patras
  • Mr Lennart Malmsköld, Manager, Volvo Group Trucks Technology and Project Planning
  • CIAKL – Professor Jose Damasio, Universidade Lusófona
  • Mr Nuno Goncalves, Board Member, ZON Lusomundo

Testimonials: students from project institutions

Rapporteur: Mr Todd Davey, Manager International Projects, Fachhochschule Münster


Key messages from the session


About the Knowledge Alliances

  • Knowledge Alliances, a pilot project of the European Commission
  • A structured partnership bringing together (i) enterprise, (ii) HEIs and (iii) students around curriculum development and delivery  for 18 month projects
  • The three projects, three different “sectors”:

(i) creative arts

(ii) manufacturing and

(iii) entrepreneurship across multiple faculties

  • Alliances of university and business partners
  • Cross-cultural and differing development levels e.g. EUEN
  • Objective: to increase student employability through cooperative curriculum development and delivery


Challenges (curriculum development and delivery involving knowledge alliances)

“Coming from an abstract concept, involving different organisations and backgrounds into a well-oriented pilot that engages interest from all parties”. Further challenges in curriculum development and delivery involving knowledge alliances coming from the project included:


1.      Designing and delivering curriculum

  • Finding the right sort of problems for students to solve e.g. Volvo cooperation
  • Cross-cultural differences e.g. attention to timing
  • Differing development levels e.g. EUEN
  • Timing i.e. short timeframes for project, fitting within a curriculum
  • Common understandings in Europe of different concepts can be a real challenge e.g. entrepreneurship translated into German

2.      Engaging stakeholders

  • How to engage these stakeholders in collaborative curriculum development and delivery is really the key challenge
  • Finding the right motivation for different stakeholders
  • Proximity issues e.g. having the right technology for ‘remote’ relationships and engagement

3.    Delivering value to all stakeholders

Understand and define the stakeholder value and making it practicable for all actors:

  • Business: New perspectives and innovations; potential to find future employees and academic partners
  • StudentsAbility to deepen their theoretical knowledge with practical problem-solving, increased motivation with actual problems, students developed problem solving skills with an end result being increased understanding and confidence
  • Academics: more dynamic and engaging curriculum delivering better understanding to students, potential to interact with ‘colleagues’ in industry and potential collaboration partners, BUT care not to increase workload of teachers.

Some final thoughts

  • The key to collaboration through curriculum development and delivery is developing real interactions around mutual topics of interest

(i) HEI (academics)

(ii) business (also their employees despite being obligated to work)

  • Transferable tools and methods for developing the curriculum can be provided and shared between HEIs
  • Curriculum development and delivery (being one of the 8 UBC cooperation types) is vital to increasing graduate employability and delivering value to business and society through human resources
  • Universities are crucial not only on terms of provision of skills but also in terms of being a place “where people meet”
  • Innovation and new value happens at intersections: Cross-industry, disciplinary and profession
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