How to get more innovation out of R&D billions


By Jesper Bryde-Jacobsen, Managing Director, BIOPRO:

In spite of a high level of R&D Denmark does not get enough innovation out of its investments. BIOPRO has developed a new collaboration model to strengthen ties between universities and industry. The aim is more growth and job creation.

In the OECD Denmark is among the five countries that spend most public funds on research. However, only slightly more than half of Denmark's businesses are innovative, which is below the average of the OECD's 33 member countries. In Europe, Denmark only ranks 10th.

The Danish government has indicated that we should get more value for money – for the benefit of all. And this is a justified expectation.

At the biotech cluster BIOPRO we bring universities and industry together in a number of projects, the aim being to contribute to maintaining and expanding Denmark's leading position in biotech. This object can only be attained if we have world-class collaboration between universities and industry – smooth and effective.

This is a joint challenge, and we want to address it.

In order to create best practice for the collaboration between universities and industry we are developing a collaboration model – Business and University Collaboration in Research and Innovation (BUCRI) – that can be used for similar collaboration projects in future.

We want to ensure the best possible outcome when talented people from Danish universities and internationally successful businesses such as Novo Nordisk, Novozymes, DONG Energy and CP Kelco work together.

Two key action areas

With the BUCRI model we want to address two of the challenges that prevent Denmark from getting enough value for its research funds:

· Cultural differences

· Personal approach and interests of the project participants

The aim is to obtain faster and tangible results on the basis of strong innovation and research.

It is no secret that university scientists give high priority to immersion while businesses typically strive to solve a practical problem. Put simply, universities want to create new know-how whereas industry wants to optimise and create new products.

In order to establish world-class collaboration, both approaches are needed.

Likewise, the participants' personal approach and behaviour are decisive factors for the efficiency of a project. Here the BUCRI model makes a distinction between "doers" and "waiters". Anyone who has participated in a project group can tell the difference between the enterprising/action-oriented types and the wait-and-see/laid-back types.

Obviously, the enterprising type is preferred for research and innovation projects, but the wait-and-see type is not necessarily lazy or useless. Cultural differences between nationalities may be one of many explanations for a non-committal attitude. In some countries a PhD student would never ask a professor or lecturer about anything.

The two types exist both in industry and at universities. The challenge is that only few have ventured to address the problem. With the BUCRI model we provide project managers with the necessary tools.

What is best practice?

It is imperative that expectations are thoroughly aligned – not only at the onset but also in the course of the project – to ensure that the project participants continuously relate to the collaboration, its aim and the way to obtain an outcome.

We simply recommend project managers to:

· Hold meetings regularly to ensure momentum

· Evaluate the collaboration as such at the meetings

· Align expectations on an ongoing basis

· Prepare brief monthly reports: What happened during the past month and what is going to happen in the month ahead? It provides an overview and is good stakeholder care

Training as a football team

The participants in a research project should consider themselves as being part of a football team. No training, no team. The more training, the stronger the team and, hence, the results. It sounds perfectly simple, but the problems arising from cultural differences and behaviour are seldom addressed.

The trick is to include the challenges in a management model and then just train, train and train. Learning at courses does not create value, changed everyday behaviour does. With the BUCRI model we are close to the project manager and constantly consider: How can this become a new product or a new business? It constitutes an important part of BIOPRO's mission.

If everyone follows our advice, the taxpayers will get more value for money and Denmark will shoot up the innovation ranking list, creating growth as well as jobs.

About BIOPRO:

BIOPRO is a Danish pioneering biotech research centre, the purpose of which is to create jobs and growth by making biotech manufacturing even more competitive and sustainable. BIOPRO was inaugurated on 1 February 2013. The partners behind BIOPRO are CP Kelco, DONG Energy, Novo Nordisk, Novozymes, the Technical University of Denmark and the University of Copenhagen. CAT Science Park acts as project manager. The project is sponsored by Region Zealand, the EU and the Partners and has a budget of DKK 41.9 million. Jesper Bryde-Jacobsen is Managing Director of BIOPRO.

The work on BUCRI is facilitated by UniBiz Consulting, a spin-off from BIOPRO.