Technology and knowledge transfer is often described as the ‘third mission’ that universities are expected to fulfil in addition to their responsibilities for teaching and research. And cooperation between higher education and the industrial and business sectors does indeed yield many benefits:
Turning research results into marketable products and services strengthens business innovation and productivity.
Technology transfer between academia and the industrial sector is of major importance for small and medium-sized companies with their often limited resources for pursuing R&D projects.
Productive alliances between universities and companies can help to strengthen the regional economy by producing marketable innovations, spin-outs and graduates who work for local companies.
Universities acquire an understanding of the problems of current practical relevance to industry and business and can use this information to develop new areas of knowledge and new research projects.
Research and teaching activities remain up-to-date and are thus better able to provide students with an application-driven education.
Universities area able to boost their research budgets.
As the only university of applied sciences in Saarland, htw saar has the significant advantages of being able to deliver application-focused R&D and of maintaining close ties to the local economy. The result is a high level of third-party funding as well as a diverse range of over one hundred R&D projects involving more than 140 members of academic staff. With its four schools (Architecture and Civil Engineering, Engineering, Social Sciences and the Business School), htw saar is the first port of call for local companies seeking to conduct joint innovation projects or who want to see research results transformed into real-life applications.
Technology and knowledge transfer via individuals
Knowledge transfer and technology transfer are core activities at htw saar. Working within interdisciplinary groups made up of their own research teams and partner companies and organizations, the professorial staff at htw saar carry out market- and application-oriented research. One particularly relevant aspect of this collaboration is that the scientists appointed to professorial positions at universities of applied sciences already have professional experience in business and management environments. They understand the entrepreneurial approach and have the requisite professional skills in the relevant industrial and business sectors. Being equally at home in the private sector as they are in a university environment, they are in an excellent position to mediate between both worlds.
Moreover, the industrial placements and internships that students at htw saar undertake during their studies make a direct contribution to the development of new products, services and processes. One particularly novel form of technology transfer at htw saar is the cooperative education programme. Students sign a contract with a company that itself has a cooperation agreement with htw saar. The students are contractually obliged to work for the company for between eight and ten hours a week during the semester and for several weeks at a time during the semester recess period. This provides students with an opportunity to gain extensive work-related experience and to contribute to ambitious development projects while still enrolled as students at university. The companies themselves benefit from the continuous input to development projects from the students and are very often able to train highly qualified junior staff in the process, who can later be employed by the company without the need to put the new recruit through the usual induction or ‘warm-up’ phase.
Technology transfer and knowledge transfer via networks
Increasing complexity, rising costs and ever shorter innovation cycles are key factors shaping the development of new products, services and processes. htw saar has responded to this by aggregating high-performing innovative partners within strategic networks. The advantages of these networks are not hard to see: By grouping together companies, universities, external research organizations and public bodies interested in the same subject areas, the members of these strategic networks can share their complementary skillsets while having access to the expertise available in the region. Accordingly, htw saar advocates strongly for the continuation of these highly collaborative research projects as they allow the innovation potential present in the region to be harnessed along the entire research and development chain to create value in the industrial sector.
In addition, htw saar is working with Saarland University to establish a doctoral research programme and the creation of joint centres of excellence, based on the successful ZeMA model. ZeMA, the Center for Mechatronics and Automation Technology, combines htw saar’s strengths in industrial engineering with the basic research conducted at Saarland University and local external research institutions in the areas of computer science, natural sciences, material sciences, mechatronics and medicine.