A best practice of university-industry innovation partnership in the Italian context

How to measure impact of proactive support and coordination activities by Industrial Liaison Officers in a strategic partnership with a multinational company.

Valeria Carpene
University of Bologna

LinkedIn profile

Silvia Vecchi
University of Bologna

Rosa Grimaldi
University of Bologna

Background and Objectives
The main aim of this proposal is to map and measure the outcome of the Framework Partnership Agreement among the University of Bologna and a multinational company (leader in the energy sector) that has increasingly developed since mid 2017 through a wide variety of collaborative activities. This Agreement has been the first successfully realized “agreement prototype”, based on a strategic approach to university-industry relations recently carried out by the University of Bologna.
In the era of the innovation economy, industry and university are seeking new ways to enhance collaboration, but they often fail to interact properly, if they miss to find the right cooperation formats. To prevent fragmentation and low collaboration rates, both industry and university are setting up new programs for university-industry relations. In many cases they start by restructuring internal administrative units and services, as well as employing new staff with and intermediary role (in literature defined as: industry liaison officer, innovation officer, knowledge broker) .
The enhancement of a strategy able to strengthen university-industry dialogue and to bridge the gap in terms of timespan, expected outcomes and financial implications between public research institutions/universities and industry has become a fundamental area for policy at national, regional and local level.
The University of Bologna has developed a variety of collaboration tools with strategic business partners in the years, but often fragmentation would not allow to let the collaborations synergically develop and grow in terms of multidisciplinary approach, complexity or to move towards innovative actions. In the case study presented, after many years of scattered collaborations with a multinational energy company, the University of Bologna decided to scale up relations with this partner and increase the commitment level, through a Framework Partnership Agreement.
This Agreement, starting from a research-based approach, expanded joint actions toward a wide variety of projects and initiatives, thanks to the action of the management committee and a periodical monitoring and planning of actions. It’s therefore a very good example of exploitation of a good university-industry partnership.
The main questions addressed are therefore the following: “Is there an impact of support and coordination activities with a specific industry, compared to local and scattered support, where single units/departments do not know about activities running with the same company?”; “Does the role of a dedicated industrial liaison officer/innovation officer at central level improve and simplify the relation with industry?”; “Does the role of a dedicated industrial liaison officer/innovation officer at central level improve and simplify activities within the same university , especially within a complex organization, such as the University of Bologna (covering all research areas, structured in 5 campus areas, located in a highly industrialised region)?”.