The modern landscape for research and development involves a great deal of collaboration between academic institutions and industry, business and finance. New opportunities appear and this is beneficial for all parties as well as for society in general.
There are also challenges. Different working conditions may lead to mutual misunderstanding. Conflicts of interest may appear, as interactions are now important in the progress of even basic research and research training. Relations with the private sector may also increase the competition between universities, and they may induce changes in research profiles and organisational structures. This interdependence questions the principle of the "free and unattached academic research."
The international workshop explored the most effective ways of developing productive collaborations between academia and private sector partners. The key question is set to "how the potential can be maximized and challenges minimised," maintaining a global perspective and based on a number of cases of different types of collaboration. The character of the partners involved in the collaboration will vary from smaller higher-education colleges, mainly interacting with local firms, to major research universities with world-wide interaction networks, and from major companies with considerable research capabilities to firms that have to buy their technical development from others.
Another aspect discussed was what forces lies behind the desire to interact. Do companies look for the best basic science environment or an applied science arena? Do universities have ambitions beyond secured financing, for instance acquiring new technical skills or establishing contacts with the future labour market of their students? The workshop covered different points of view and included them in the groundwork for a best practice.
The conference was attended by some 40 international scientists, industrialists and policy. Local Swedish participants will be included as well as young scientists and trainees from industry. It took place at the Sigtuna Foundation, which has a longstanding tradition as a meeting place designed for interdisciplinary dialogue between partners representing different societal groups and interests.