Although perceived as a high barrier, there are plenty of examples around that show the lack of sufficient resources does not have to prevent you from collaborating. These low-cost UBC activities are found to take place in the form of student placements, joint curriculum design and delivery, events and networks, and seminars and workshops. In most cases the costs are reduced by integrating activities within existing mechanisms, donations granted to HEIs by local organisations, or simply by individuals’ personal motivations and willingness to invest their time in UBC.
The need for only low or no financial resources implies a low risk to participate in such activities, which makes it more likely for business to engage and open the doors towards more and a greater variety of UBC activities.
Joint teaching and student placements in the education area
While most educational activities require a low financial investment, e.g. student mobility, some of them need nothing at all, like joint curriculum design, which only requires people from the HEIs and businesses to make time to sit together and prepare the program. This also applies to joint curriculum delivery, as not all businesspeople expect to be paid to give lectures to students.
The Sunshine Project from South Africa presents a prime example how entrepreneurship education does not need to have higher cost than any other university course. Integrated into a compulsory module, the project allows students to establish their own ‘company’ to generate income, and invest it in the development of local schools in cooperation with local businesses.
Seminars and workshops combined with conferences, and network building
Many universities report that they often face the challenge of lack of funding to undertake UBC when it comes to research. However, seminars, workshops or network events can be the answer for the HEIs to make it over the first threshold where often more financial resources are required. After all, once a relationship has been established, or ways to benefit from UBC have become evident, the future UBC activities will be lighter to initiate.
Initiatives such as the Young Investigator Network of the University of Denmark, a network of young researchers mentored by business managers from leading Danish companies, or University of Uppsala’s AIMday, a forum for discussion where both industry and academic representatives can create contacts, exchange knowledge and collaborate, prove that sometimes simplicity is key. These types of events also allow the business stakeholders with fewer resources available, especially the SMEs to develop relationships with potential university partners without necessarily having to allocate too many resources to it from the start.
Offerings for public, and in public spaces
It is not only the more targeted activities that can trigger further collaboration between university and business. Small initiatives, offered to the public in public spaces, provide a platform to disseminate knowledge, as well as functioning as the first step towards UBC activities. Such as the Science Café of the University of Twente and Saxion University of Applied Sciences, which regularly hosts experts and scientists to expose a scientific subject to public audience with no costs of attendance. Similarly, funded by donations, Philadelphia’s University City Science Centre (UCSC) Quorum offers a co-working lounge as an informal co-working spot to the public with Wi-Fi, plugs, whiteboards, plug-and-play LCD screens, and free coffee. The centre has a wide range of public workshops and free signature programs to connect entrepreneurs, investors, and advisors. USCS’s uCity Square community gathering spot Innovation Plaza and the Innovators Walk of Fame are two other public spots that inspire ideas and foster creative communication.
With these examples, but also the many more available at www.ub-cooperation.eu and at www.uiin.org, funding should no longer be the reason for not participating in university-business cooperation. Although not all of these might apply to your situation, it is important to cherry picks those that do, and if your resources are limited: start small, but think big.