Making Connections and Building Relationships
It is, I hope, not presumptuous to say that all of our members face challenges in developing knowledge exchange at universities, as we strive to create great relationships between higher education and the world outside.
Abreu et al, in Universities, Business and Knowledge Exchange (2008) summarise these challenges as:
- lack of knowledge of potential partners, collaboration mechanisms and funding opportunities
- differences in research culture and language
- differences (or perceived differences) in research drivers
- financial constraints, Intellectual Property (IP) and confidentiality issues
- timescales, with universities often operating on significantly longer time scales than potential outside collaborators.
Whilst not at all exhaustive, this list draws out the incompatibility of knowledge exchange and traditional university structures and mind-sets. Of course this is not news to us, working at our own individual coalfaces in HE today. But what is stark to me is how the list above shouts the need for change, disruptive change.
Those of us who are striving to tackle these challenges can’t look inwards, to our traditional university structures, as the world outside cares not for our silos. Knowledge Exchange therefore must break these down. And yet they are intrinsic to our large and diverse institutions. So we must learn from those brave souls who are making inroads –straddling the same line between our internal and external worlds. But they are spread, often thinly around the country, and so people can rarely meet and share experiences.
At AURIL we know, particularly from conference and from our network events, that meeting your peers works. It keeps people coming back year-after-year, eager to find out how others have dealt with, for example, the new ERDF 1720 rule and GBER issues (anyone???). More than that, we have a basic need to know that someone else faces the same challenges as us.
It is for this reason that we set up AIMS – The AURIL Inspirational Mentoring Scheme
, a programme designed to bring members together with shared interests, who may need support and advice, or have the same to give.
Since its launch in October 2015, we have had a huge wave of interest from members, who will now be matched with a mentor/mentee, right across the UK. AURIL’s role is simply to facilitate this contact. From that point on the relationship is the participants’ responsibility. From the expressions of interest received thus far, it is clear that this will be a key route for information sharing right across the UK. A huge thank you to all those who have signed up so far, and I hope to see more of you in 2016!
Jennie Shorley, Head of Bids and Partnerships
The Centre for Enterprise, MMU