In a seek for cohesion between science and business (2)

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 Continue, begining No.9

With the help of the director of the association Knowledge economy Forum Edgaras Leichteris, who was one of the lecturers during the trainings for embedded systems, we further analyzed certain aspects of cohesion between business and science. 

Why this so wished cohesion does not make its way to our reality but remains the topic for inexhaustible discussions? Where are the roots for this inefficient cooperation? Finally, how this should be related to embedded systems which must not be spent out of sight in this conversation?

Edgaras Leichteris attempted to find the answer to this last question.

E. Leichteris. I would like to draw your attention to new EU projects, which might be relevant for scientists working in the area of embedded systems in Lithuania. The strategy Europa 2020 introduced a new concept – smart specialisation, and I suggest focusing on this concept. What we have got in mind is not intelligent absorbing of funding from EU structural funds but rather integration of the best competencies that would increase competitiveness of Lithuanian and the whole European Union. In other words, we need to find and adjust the potential of different countries for EU to successfully compete with USA, Japan and other growing world economies.

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E.Leichteris

Will we manage to adapt all the current and properly not used potential of science for the good of the entire EU? Do we understand how can we be useful for achieving the set goals?

E. Leichteris. In the middle of the last decade, such attempts have already been made with the help of EU, for example when developing regional strategy of innovations. There were discussions going on in Lithuania on how to discover our potential and try to adapt it in practice. A part of these discussions turned into real projects funded from EU structural funds. It turned out that we do not have the habit to discuss such important issues and look for suitable specializations. Businessmen call these discussions a waste of time, and scientists only see a need to write an article on this.

However, successful examples (emerging clusters; active businessmen participating in the activity of science valleys; people who actively use innovation vouchers) always suggest long term relationships between business and science. I was impressed by one Englishman who has engaged in commercialization of science for 30 years. He has once said: “You would not believe what large investments into promoting cooperation between business and science can do”.

Did the Englishman say he sought for this cooperation and succeeded?

E. Leichteris. He did succeed with the help of his consistent work. In the beginning, the first attempts may be no that successful, however, it is important not to expect early benefits. Gradually, benefits will become apparent for both of the sides.

Did the Englishman you mentioned before spoke as a representative of business? Did he encourage people not to surrender and continue supporting science?

E. Leichteris. He used to say that the state has to encourage and support cooperation of business and science. The state has to allocate certain funds, and the efficiency of their utilization may be felt only provided growing business investments. This is what is attempted to do in current Lithuania: state funds are being combined with business co-financing.

Let’s get back to the topic we have started, i.e. why it is difficult for the Lithuanian science to find a common language with business in certain areas. The association Knowledge Economy forum currently has many various contacts with bachelor and master students, postgraduates and scientists. We try to promote their entrepreneurship. This does not mean we want to direct them to business and transform them into business. We try to help scientists in finding common language with businessmen, or at least to achieve that businessman would listen to scientist. This is what we have noticed: bachelor students have many ideas and willingness to engage in business but lack competence; very few master students are willing to do something in cooperation with business; and postgraduates and scientists put it in simple words – “Just leave me alone, however, give me money so I can go deeper into the chosen field”.

Like everywhere in life, there are exceptions, and we are most excited about these exceptions.  These exceptions show that investments into valleys start giving return on investments or at least will give the returns in the near future. There are lots of young postgraduates coming who say universities purchase a lot of new equipment with which many different things can be done, including business area. This suggests quite positive forecasts.

Do you focus on bachelor students, who still have many ideas and enthusiasm?

E. Leichteris. This segment is very interesting for us, and therefore we mostly work with bachelor students. In European countries, even culture is being economized not to talk about science. When visiting various conferences we notice certain trends: people working in the area of culture are encouraged to look for links with business or at least to find sponsors. Willing to demonstrate their social responsibility, sponsors may support culture by providing funding to certain areas. In this sense, it is easier to receive funding for science.

When working with the insight Life and Learning Lithuania 2030, we encountered difficulties related to translation of the term ‘mokslusis’ into English. In Lithuanian, this term covers both training and education; therefore we decided to translate it in two words: Life and learning Lithuania 2030. Clearly, not only the Lithuanian term mokslusmokslusis is unique, the very condition we currently are in is very special. We do not attempt turning all Lithuanian people into scientists; however, we want Lithuanian people to start thinking like scientists, to use the existing knowledge and critically assess certain events. What I have in mind is not only economics, but also social life.

Lithuanians have always understood science as transfer and acquisition of knowledge, i.e. learning. Even in the first grade, children go to school to receive education, i.e. to acquire knowledge and skills. Thus, the Lithuanian term denoting science does not mean the same as the English term ‘science’ or Russian ‘наука’. It is not that easy to translate this historically-established term into other languages without certain comments or context explanations. By the way, newspaper Life and Learning Lithuania 2030 would create healthy competition for Mokslo Lietuva.

E. Leichteris. If we would direct our conversation back to business, it would be a good opportunity to remind you that we have just completed a study devoted to clusters. We have identified 46 ideas for clusters in Lithuania. Cluster is a unit where science is not necessary but often very desirable, and businessmen are united based on economic benefits. This is both the strength and weakness of clusters. It is the strength in the sense that it would be hard to think about connection stronger than agreement on joint activity between competitors. However, this agreement requires lots of efforts.

How clusters are created in Lithuania? What grounds and methods are used for creating clusters?

E. Leichteris. An example of bad practice: a state gives money for creating a cluster, and when no money is left, the cluster falls apart. There are also good examples, for example in the areas with longstanding links between business and science. These are naturally formed clusters which reminds a certain community or commune involving both scientists and businessmen. Such clusters create additional value, usually work for export, and often are able to maintain themselves without state support.

The good practice of these clusters should be spread as widely as possible.

E. Leichteris. For these clusters to appear, systematic discussions are required inside these communities. Participants of clusters are united by imagining that together they will earn a lot of money. However, if after several meeting they cannot find solutions acceptable to all, such cluster falls apart.

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Raimundas Balčiunaitis, Donatas Austys are more promising in innovations

I like the approach followed by our laser designers and manufacturers: this has taken more than one day for us to gather. We have been dining every Wednesday for three years until we have polished sharp edges. Simple communication and search for contact points provides basis for very important things. In this perspective, our state did a great job initiating and organizing innovation vouchers and similar schemes. Even though the amounts are not so big, this is an opportunity to create links between businessmen and scientists.

What do we still need to learn from Germany, Denmark, Holland and other countries experienced in the area of promoting cooperation between business and science? I had a chance to interact with agents from Bremen in Germany. These agents are often unsuccessful postgraduate students who having tried out this area and having learnt to communicate with professors understood that science is not their call and turned to business. They have also understood that the most important thing for a successful system is not letting businessman to talk to professor directly. Both businessmen and professors need to talk through an intermediary who understands the language of the both sides. Therefore, we need to raise such “translators” here in Lithuania to help businessmen and scientists in communication. The more such people we will have, the better will be. However, this requires certain financial injections.

It is not enough to say “we need”, we also need to know how this is going to be implemented in practice? Is this going to be accomplished through the mentioned clusters and science valleys?

E. Leichteris. Partly, this has already been being done. The state has established innovation support network, capacity building, etc. The worst part is that not everyone has learnt how to work well and responsibly, therefore we are failing to produce sufficient quantity of good intermediaries. Some of them eventually start working for consulting companies. At least, they stay in Lithuania and provide private services thus developing understanding what is required for cooperation between business and science and improve general innovations’ situation in Lithuania.

 To be Continue No 11