In May earlier this year, the Australian Academy of Technology & Engineering’s IMNIS initiative hosted their Engaging with Industry series around Australia as part of the 2020-21 National Program. This series invites a panel of industry experts to share insights and advice with IMNIS mentees wanting to engage with industry and establish industry collaborations. IMNIS Catalyst Dr Samantha Papavasiliou shares her key learnings in this Catalyst perspective.

This session we heard perspectives from across academia and industry. Presenters highlighted their experiences and provided insights into how they continue to learn through every opportunity to research and collaborate.

Professor Anton van den Hengel FTSE, shared his insights and different experiences, both positive and negative. Leaving participants with a number of key messages, including how it is okay to turn down opportunities and how research is full of risk, but it is also very rewarding.

From the panel discussion, Panellists echoed the greater need for the development of ongoing relationships between academia and industry.

Regardless of their experiences and expertise, the panellists highlighted similar factors in the development of positive relationships between academia and industry.

I learned 5 key lessons from the presenters, which can support early career researchers navigate some of the complexities of industry and academia collaboration:

Lesson 1: It is important to understand that there are opportunities and perils in every research and collaboration process. Developing trusting relationships across industry and academia takes time, and not every conversation will lead to the expected outcome. Research is risky, especially in partnerships.

Lesson 2: Advice can be just as valuable (if not more) than large scale research projects. Do not be upset if industry engages you to provide advice rather than conduct research, providing value is what’s important.

Lesson 3: Creativity and research go hand in hand.

Lesson 4: The disconnect in language between industry and academia is not as big as you might think. Of course there are things you can do to bridge the language gap and translate your research  to be industry ready:

  • Highlight the common values and qualities that you and your research partners share.
  • Have a well organised research process.
  • Have clear and specific goals (scope), avoid goal drift, stick to the goals to ensure value is added.

Lesson 5: Communication is key. Irrelevant of our background, experience or field dialogue and relationship building links strongly to positive research outcomes. Communication needs to be tailored to the needs and expectations of all parties.

Aside from the lessons learned, I had one more key takeaway. Recent graduates and PhD candidates feel that they require more training and support to understand how to build relationships within industry. Although universities provide training and opportunities to partner or intern with industry, these are optional activities that need to be completed in addition to PhD research. Therefore greater opportunities for PhD candidates and early career researchers to learn how to consult with industry is important. I do not have an answer to how this can be achieved, although I can recommend the IMNIS Mentoring Program, as a safe introduction to developing industry connections.

Another key take away from the session is that curiosity is shared across industry and academia, and if you can tap into it, no matter what field, you will find like-minded people who want to collaborate.

About the author: Dr Samantha Papavasiliou, IMNIS Catalyst 2021, completed her PhD specialising in digital transformation and adoption in the Australian Public Sector. She also holds a Bachelor of Psychological Science (2014) and Bachelor of Social Science with Honours (2015), from the University of Adelaide. In 2017, Samantha completed her Master of Project Management Project Systems, and in 2018 her Master of International Trade and Development, also from the University of Adelaide.

Dr Papavasiliou currently works at the Australian Taxation Office as a Service Review and Redesign Project Manager and data analyst, focusing on service redesign and digital transformation. Samantha also teaches at the University of Adelaide, focusing on post graduate project management, system design and research methods. Her key field of research is understanding digital adoption behaviours in the Australian Public Sector (APS). Her research aims at informing and tailoring communication channels used by the APS moving forward.

Samantha’s other areas of interest are behavioural analytics in public sector digital adoption and the application of predictive modelling to tailor communications between organisations and users.

Connect with Samantha on LinkedIn.