The University Partnership Playbook

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The way we conduct research development today is changing rapidly. Our knowledge ecosystems are shifting towards cross-discipline, multi-agency research drawing on the distinct contributions that each can make towards original and transformative ideas.

I was approached in 2018 by a large multi-national corporation to help them develop a guide for their R&D teams on how to exploit the knowledge and resource capital of universities. The subsequent ‘playbook’ contained over 130 pages of illustrated tools and resources to help build strategic relationships and enhance organisations research and development capabilities.

The resource is informed by the experiences and insights of the R&D staff and OpenInnovation specialists. It can be read in one sitting but is something people can return to, using the tools, frameworks and templates as part of their ongoing partnering work.

The ground covered included:

  • Introduction: Setting out the purpose of the book to move from ad-hoc engagements to strategic partnerships.
  • Open innovation: Defining innovation ecosystems.
  • Understanding the university: Establishing the key drivers and organisational behaviours of universities and how they differ from the R&D industry.
  • Building strategic partnerships: Providing a set of tools to analyse existing or potential partnerships and identify areas of alignment.
  • Interactions mapping: Setting out a framework to help map interactions and create a detailed portfolio of different project types and relationships between the client and a university partner.
  • Problem definition: Highlighting the differences in how commercial R&D teams and university researchers undertake and resolve problem definition.
  • Leveraging value:A set of financial assessment tools for assessing the added value of strategic partnerships with universities.
  • Proximity: Utilising Boschma’s proximity framework to access the potential of partnerships, and how to address negative proximity.
  • Contracting: Highlighting how to navigate the contractual language and IP arrangements
  • Measuring success: A set of tools to access the partnership.

A playbook works by describing set pieces and well-known ‘plays’. It is a term that originated in North America to describe and catalogue sporting strategies. In this instance, the ‘plays’ we focused on are those that typically occur or need to be navigated when industry partner with universities. The playbook was distributed to over forty countries via the client’s open innovation strategy.

The book will be available for sale in 2021.

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