Together with the identification of the skills demanded by industry and research in professionals of the Raw Material sector, in BREAKit we want to put the focus on barriers and bottle necks that hinder the creation of these T-shaped innovation champions.
At this moment BREAKit is analysing the first findings of the results of the stakeholders’ consultation on this, which shows that the most important barriers are in the formal educational path, where there is a strong focus on research and technical excellence and little on development of innovation & business skills in researchers, and also in the lack of practical training and relation with companies at the technical universities.
For example PhD programs are still in some cases very vertical and there is a lack of communication with enterprises. Business and economy, sustainable and responsible development, also communication, teamwork and personal skills must be present in the career development. Nowadays education need to be more teamwork and problem-solving oriented to build simultaneously the technical and the innovation & business complementary skills.
With regards to the lack of practical training and relation with companies, it is an important issue especially for PhD and professionals that are starting a scientific and research career, who need to start networking and creating relations to industry early. So, more collaboration between industry and universities would be beneficial, like doing internships during studying to gain experience from industrial plants. In the case of PhD, some respondents suggest a biased view in supervision, so doctoral students would have a supervisor of practice (from industry/research institute), in addition to scientific supervisor (from university research department).
Other barriers were identified also important, as the lack of courses oriented to improve employability skills in technical universities. Universities should provide education to develop different type of professionals whether they will continue in the academic career, go to research career, or go to industry. So, the development of these skills must be part of the education e.g. co-operation projects with industry, not separate courses. These skills can be developed in a later stage during training periods and actual work life, so some of the people consulted considered this issue less relevant.
Another issue that need to be improved is the collaboration between university, RTO and industry. Many respondents say that there are already many projects and policies that support and boost this collaboration, but maybe they are not sufficiently effective or they need to improve. Some say this collaboration should be organic and no policy should be needed. Collaboration based on policies has also restrictions and barriers, and often it is quite difficult for industries to work together with Universities (not so much with RTOs) because of bureaucratic issues and different perception of time schedules. What it is shared is that it is needed to create common language and projects between these three parties.
We can conclude that if we really want to develop professionals that can cooperate with other parties of the knowledge triangle (Business, Research, Academia), we must assure that students during the early stages of their technical education get familiar with the business & innovation skills, understand the whole sectoral picture and speak the common language, so that allows in the future a fruitful collaboration. They will also be more prepared to transfer knowledge from one organization to another, and to jump from one institution to another.