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Industry and academia must shift towards open innovation: Review

By Nathan Gray , 27-Apr-2011

To effectively cope with the innovation demands from accelerating development of science and technology, academia and the food industry must work together, according to a new review.

The review published in Journal of Food Engineering outlines recommendations for a paradigm shift in both the food industry and academia; calling for “real, measurable, meaningful actions.”

Such recommendations “constitute what is envisioned as a blueprint for jump-starting the process that is required to meet the innovation challenges facing academia and the food industry,” said Sam Saguy, of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, author of the review.

“Open innovation utilization by the food industry and academia could become viable by adopting innovation partnerships and a new mindset,” said Saguy

“Academia and the food industry need a mutual vision and thrust that includes paradigm shifts toward reforming the 'old' systems of teaching, learning, student involvement, industry's role, and increased social responsibility,” he added.

Innovation

According to official EU figures (from 2009) the food and drink industry is the largest manufacturing sector in Europe; the industry employs 4.4 million people and has an annual turnover of €965 billion – representing 13 per cent of the manufacturing sector's turnover.

“Europe's competitiveness, its capacity to create millions of new jobs to replace those lost in the current economic crisis and, overall, its future standard of living depend on its ability to drive innovation in products, services, business and social processes and models,” said Saguy

He explained that innovation is a multi-aspect process, “in which science, technology, marketing and organization, as well as other key aspects such as partnership, risk and social responsibility, play a role.”

“Open innovation is founded on the reality that, in a world of vastly distributed knowledge and accelerated development, companies can no longer afford to rely on their own research, and consequently must utilize outside sources and buy or license processes, technologies, inventions and solutions,” said Saguy.

Paradigm shift

Through his review Saguy explains that academia and the food industry “need a mutual vision” to shift the paradigm of learning and innovation.

He identified four key paradigm shifts, which “are specifically recommended”:

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  • Breaking down the walls between academia and industry
  • A revised intellectual properties (IP) model
  • Integrated management to drive the innovation process
  • Enhancing social responsibility

Breaking down walls

By increasing the importance of applied research the review suggests that academia can bring about significant improvements in teaching quality. By bringing the focus to relevant topics, Saguy explained that students will be able to interact directly with industry, working on topics of commercial importance.

In addition, he said that the new model must also call for industrial involvement in academia – specifically of its experts. He suggests that industry experts should “transform their role into becoming proactive in teaching graduate courses, mentoring research […] and contributing to the strategic thinking of the universities.”

Saguy explained this partnership “calls for a proactive role and participation of both academia and industry in each step of the innovation … It calls for a new and different mindset on both sides.”

Revising IP

The review highlights IP as “a 'Gordian knot' that needs resolving,” adding that in many instances focusing on IP rights “has become an impassable and sometimes even crippling barrier for innovation success.”

“To avoid stagnant situations, the complex IP issue requires special attention and new business models for co-sharing,” said Saguy.

“In considering IP rights, we should also include the topic of adequate funding, especially that defined as 'unrestricted grants' and 'blue sky' research … Industry needs to take a more proactive role in developing this area,” he added.

Management's role

Open innovation and innovation partnerships have always relied heavily on the support of senior management throughout the process; however a new integrated framework is needed to manage the innovation process, according to Saguy.

“To thrive, management should institutionalize alliances/partnerships to enhance cross-fertilization and synergy,” he said.

However, aligning university and industry development of innovation is not straightforward and requires considerable planning and management.

“It will require truly new thinking at both academia and industry levels … Management's foremost role is to recognize that they are the ‘gatekeepers’ of the flow and must promote the required organizational changes in industry,” said Saguy.

“At the level of academia, management should develop a strategy that promotes collaborations and elevate the academic importance of applied R&D,” he added.

Social responsibility

For a business to create value over the long term, it must also bring value to society.

The review noted that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) “has moved from ideology to reality, and represents an important dimension in contemporary business practices.”

Saguy highlighted that CSR must be addressed at each step of the innovation process, in order to promote innovations with true societal value.

“A genuine concern for society in all actions and decisions should become the norm and an integral part of the innovation process … the whole innovation process should therefore take into consideration the social contribution,” he said.

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