Transfer or die

  • Mètode
  • October 3rd, 2019

The principal of the University Research Institute on Robotics and Information and Communication Technologies (IRTIC) reflects on the role of this innovation’s ecosystem on its tenth anniversary.

Over the years, the third purpose of the university –to contribute to improving our productivity system– has gained strength and materialised through centres such as the University Research Institute on Robotics and Information and Communication Technologies (IRTIC), in the University of Valencia Science Park (PCUV).
Due to its technological profile and its short-term application possibilities in the industrial section, thanks to the current digital revolution, the IRTIC is a rather unconventional centre within the Universitat as a whole.  Since its establishment, technology transfer and external advice have been the result of contact with numerous companies.  With an annual volume of several million euros, the transfer in the IRTIC has materialized in direct contracts –included in the famous article 83 on transfer–, or in collaborations with public calls for proposals between national universities and companies (collaboration challenges and its predecessors, CDTI, etc.) and international (H2020, FP7, etc.).
This volume of relationships established with a great diversity of interlocutors –from SMEs in the local productive sector to large national firms, including collaborations with international companies and administrations– obliges the researcher to work flexibly and to model his or her own idea of “commercialization” of knowledge. The linear transfer function, by which the university simply transfers the results of its research, is rarely applied. In most cases, the needs are analysed and the research is adapted to the requirements of the companies and their environment, in order to be able to achieve the transfer properly. The researcher adapts and, in compensation, feeds on new ideas; the concept of transfer evolves towards bidirectionality and synergies are produced that help to generate new challenges and ideas that enrich the research and, therefore, the result.
Obviously, this is not easy.  University-business relationship it is not simple.  Different cultures, certain level of mistrust between the two spheres or a different conception of time management hinder the good dynamics of relationships that is potentially and mutually beneficial for both parties and, above all, for society. 
It is true that the structure of the public university, its culture and its aims are different from those of the business sector.  It is true that times in academia have relative priority and long-term consideration, while the applicability needs of business are immediate.  No one doubts the rigidity of the academia.  But it is also true that the generation of knowledge, which is mainly located in university institutions, requires a method that, in exchange of time, provides rigour, creativity and better results. 
Moving towards a knowledge society means recognising this value and learning to use the potential that university offers both in terms of human resources and equipment.  Companies and universities must continue to learn to know each other, to identify and recognise their abilities and deficiencies, to institutionalise their relations and to find the balance that will make working together towards a future and a society of progress more prolific. 
Over a century ago, Santiago Ramón y Cajal questioned the “publish or perish“. Perhaps it is time to consider the “profit or perish“, as a model of evolution of a university integrated in a polyhedral way in society.