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When the old ways don’t work, we create new ways

Four people sharing a Zoom screen

Anthony BoccanfusoBy Anthony Boccanfuso

When the old ways don’t work anymore, we create new ways. The COVID-19 crisis is a prime opportunity to forge entirely new pathways to ensure the R&D engine keeps humming.

UIDP hosted a lively webinar this week on the future of collaborative partnerships; 495 registrants heard from a panel of research and innovation leaders from GSK, JPMorgan Chase, and Procter & Gamble. The conversation was upbeat, even while it focused on current challenges and partnership approaches. I’d like to share some of my key takeaways:

  • Companies are not cutting back on university partnerships, although we won’t be going back to business as usual.
  • We’re communicating more, not less, and this is a good thing. Virtual approaches can actually enhance partnerships.
  • We will continue to adopt new partnering approaches using new tools. This crisis is forcing us to accelerate our transformation to digital innovation.
  • Open innovation will continue to be important in driving innovation, and companies need everyone upskilled in doing it.
  • Companies will reconsider their physical footprints given the current work-at-home norm.
  • We’re still early in the change process, and not everything has been decided.
  • Training and upskilling will be important for people across sectors and job types.
  • Some budgets are being reworked to meet current needs; for example, moving money from travel to personnel.
  • Internships, by and large, are continuing, but often they’re going virtual. Some hires are being delayed, but not cancelled. (Join our May 6 webinar for more on this.)
  • Multi-party approaches are the future and vital, since challenges are too large and can’t be solved by individual companies or universities.
  • In-person interactions will be less frequent, but we will find new ways to offset the loss from networking and maintain or increase serendipity.
  • Companies are evaluating current approaches to open innovation and trying to bring in more employees to think about how to leverage partnerships; companies are also trying to think about new ways for external parties to work with them.
  • There’s a strong desire for more seamless collaboration between government, industry and universities that creates new knowledge that leads to innovation, and that creates jobs while continuing to train our future workforce.

Now is the time to examine what’s working to move collaboration forward. University and industry research partnerships are, by and large, rising above the limitations of today’s stay-at-home conditions. As our panelists noted yesterday, COVID-19 is taking down some of the walls that separate us. It’s also greasing the wheels of innovation. We’re translating a crisis into opportunities for new, vibrant partnerships.