In 2014, Lutz Maicher published “Fuelling the powerhouse Jena: How to successfully restructure fuzzy university-industry interfaces into a seamless One Stop Agency for all stakeholders” in the University Industry Innovation Network’s Good Practice Series. Here, almost two years on, he reveals more about the origins, trends and challenges, and future progression of this case study in Jena.
The Friedrich Schiller University in Jena is one of the ten oldest universities in Germany. Today, it is a significant player in Germany’s university landscape and aims to be in Germany’s top ten research universities by 2020. Due to a successful transformation process in the 1990s the city of Jena is today one of the industrial powerhouses of East Germany, specialising in precision instruments, optics, glass products, pharmaceutical industry as well as biotechnology and microelectronics. The framework conditions in Jena’s innovation system enable and require vital and successful university-industry interaction.
We encountered many success factors, as well as barriers, which we needed to navigate in order to make our case study successful. In the early 2000s the transfer interfaces were fuzzy, leaving significant potential for the university and the region unexploited. To respond to this unpleasant situation, the university’s management started a restructuring process. It resulted in a well-established One Stop Agency for supporting entrepreneurship, start-ups and university-industry interaction serving the growth and development of the powerhouse Jena. One of the biggest success factors was the stringent commitment by the university’s executive board and a professional operational. The long-term success is challenged by financial threads. The established services can’t be maintained in a self-financing manner. Though the importance of technology transfer is already recognised by regional and national policy makers, the financial support from the regional government does not reflect the potential which could be exploited.
Our main priority in developing our Good Practice Case Study further, was the establishment of the One Stop Agency and its professional services and processes. Creating awareness of technology transfer and start-up related topics within the university and anchoring the entrepreneurial mind-set in research and teaching at the faculties, together with establishing trust in the high quality of the executed transfer processes, and promoting the service portfolio is now of highest priority. (For example, we created a club of entrepreneurship ambassadors within the university). Members of this club are entrepreneurship-minded professors from all faculties, which act as a low-barrier first contact point for students and researchers interested in the topic. The ambassadors’ club meets regularly in an informal setting in order to exchange best practices and to spin a university-wide network on entrepreneurship.
About Lutz Maicher
The origin of my interest in the topic of university-industry interaction
I’m in the pleasant situation that Jena University is sponsoring my professorship on technology transfer. Within my research group we are investigating systems and organizations for technology transfer. Due to my background in computer science, our special focus is on the question how to better use Information Systems for technology transfer processes. There is so much innovation related information out there. Intelligent analytics combined with agile process support has a huge potential to change technology transfer within the next decade.
The biggest trends and challenges facing the area of university-industry interaction
First, I’m convinced that there will be a digital transformation of the technology transfer domain. Currently we are seeing very interesting first approaches and solutions for technology analysis or workflow support. What is missing today, is an integration of these uncoupled solutions into daily work of the TTO staff. Second, technology transfer will leave much more its own silo and will be integral part of a lot of activities. The TTO will more and more change into a hub or platform which is managing and moderating a fluid network of tech transfer stakeholder. Again, I strongly believe that intelligent software will help TTO teams to better play this role. Third, due to the rise of the knowledge economy I see an increasing importance of university-industry interactions from social sciences and humanities, but also arts, design and other creative studies.
A similar case I would like to recommend to UIIN readers:
With my group at the Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy in Leipzig we are engaged in the European project PROGRESS-TT. This project is compiling a library of very interesting best practice cases which will be used in capacity building activities. The project consortium invites staff members from promising TTOs to participate in these active-learning on-site activities to learn from and discuss about the identified best practices.
You can read Lutz’s full Good Practice Case Study, “Fuelling the Powerhouse Jena”, here.