Cooperation managers - a new link between science and economy

Antje Hambitzer
Hochschule Niederrhein

Markus Menkhaus-Grübnau
Hochschule Niederrhein

The University of Applied Sciences Hochschule Niederrhein (HN) participates in the funding guidelines “Innovative Hochschule” of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research with the project “Lighthouse-Lower_Rhine” (“Leuchtturm Niederrhein_NR”). It is determined to raise the transfer between the University of Applied Sciences and the regional economy to an innovation-driven and forward-looking level. Furthermore, the aim is to manifest various technological concepts in certain branches even more strongly than previously. The main focus is placed on SMEs, that can not afford to invest into these innovative technologies all by themselves.
This means in particular:

- to create a textile innovation lab for the purpose of closing the lack of innovation between research and market maturity together with the cooperation of industrial partners
- to establish, develop and extend the Innovation HUB HIT, in order to enable industrial partners to obtain access to the automized High Throughput Technology with formulation, application and characterization. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning optimize and support the innovation process qualitatively and quantitatively and shorten the through-put-times drastically.
- to set up an own synchrotron radiation source SOARIS in Krakow for profound and top analysis.
In the field of material characterization regional SMEs obtain precise knowledge about their raw materials for further product development

The majority of the regional and national enterprises have little to no knowledge of these complex technologies and their possibilities to product and process optimization. That is also why so far they have not found the appropriate access to these methods.

This is where the new concept of cooperation management comes into play. The Hochschule Niederrhein educates and qualifies a professional group of scientists taking up, spreading and promoting ideas and innovation and fosters the indispensable exchange between academe and business. The HN educates and qualifies these cooperation managers with training on the job.

The tasks of these new cooperation managers are to systematically utilize the entire network in connection with the University of Applied Sciences and to tie the companies to the HN for the long term.
Their main tasks are:

1. The utilization of information. The cooperation management thus acts as a link between the regional SMEs and the scientists of Hochschule Niederrhein and simultaneously connects to the department of Research and Transfer in order to uncover, explore and continue the process of patenting and founding at an early stage.
2. Nurturing and expanding the academic networks of Hochschule Niederrhein.
They have been partners in long lasting and continuous cooperation (one face to the customer). The cooperation manager is looking for new projects and is in constant exchange with the cooperation partners through regular scheduled visits, creating new ideas and an extensive network.
3. Spreading the transfer of knowledge and the network to a wide base of HN: It is their task to guarantee that the already participating partners stimulate and evaluate entrepreneurial mindsets, attitudes and creativity to academia.
4. Initiating tandem programs: i.e. common personnel structure of HN and its cooperation, starting from a single traineeship and resulting in mutual scientific and technical personnel (research associates, technicians as well as professors.)

In preparation for the task of a cooperation manager, the scientific staff participates in a coaching and mentoring program for the cooperation and innovation management. A special designed software enables them to facilitate their networking of all relevant processes within the Hochschule Niederrhein and to manage the cooperation with large industry stakeholders as well as to evaluate and document the current and future university-industry partnership.

The first results will be expected in the second quarter 2020. It is considered to met the above mentioned objectives.

Summarising it can be said that a significantly improve of cooperation intensity in the field of technology and knowledge transfer can be acieved.