For centuries of long-established tradition, institutions of higher learning were closed communities of teachers and scholars. Nowadays, the complexity of social and technological challenges encourages the older universities to refine their developmental path beyond traditional confinement. From branding, e.g. modernized logos and seals, to internal policies adopted, and enabling infrastructures established, this tide of change towards external engagement and social impact reflects itself in many facets of universities around the world.
“History is wisdom – future is challenge” – the motto of Gdansk University of Technology (GUT) is reflective of this current trajectory to combine respect for tradition, with its commitment to innovation via well-designed public private interaction. One of the oldest and largest higher education institutions in Poland, Gdansk University of Technology emphasizes quality, innovative progress and strategic cooperation as its vision. It responds to the local human resource demands by training highly qualified engineers, and strategizes university-business cooperation (UBC) by engaging in innovative R&D activities.
Developed infrastructure for effective UBC
Introduced in 2012, the current developmental strategy of the university has placed new structures to further encourage UBC and technological commercialization activities of GUT. Newly established Center for Knowledge and Technology Transfer (CKTT) and Excento Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) are the two major support mechanisms of this process.
An intermediary between the researchers and the entrepreneurs, Center for Knowledge and Technology Transfer connects capable academic teams and the businesses in need of innovative solutions, facilitates the search for financial resources and provides the guidance in licensing, patenting, and protection of intellectual property. With these responsibilities, CKTT also supports the spin-off companies that implement the innovation developed in the campus. Complementarily, Excento Special Purpose Vehicle assists indirect commercialization and development of the promising projects. Beyond their individual roles in the ecosystem, CKTT and Excento SPV are well aligned in their activities; they have a common board that brings about close collaboration between the two units.
GUT’s dedication to productive science and business interaction has translated into creation of five science centers and six regional technological clusters. The centers and clusters have been recognized as important promoters of UBC in the region. For example, Interizon Pomeranian ICT Cluster, coordinated by GUT, connects around 140 entities from electronics and telecommunications industry with local universities. This rich collaborative network has received a number of national awards, with a title “Key Pomeranian Region Cluster” among them.
Successful realization of GUT’s strategy to date
On the path to fulfilling its strategic objectives, GUT has demonstrated notable success in the outputs and impact of its UBC activities. In numbers, six spin off companies, five science centers, 250 patents, 200 national and international R&D collaborative projects and 700 contracts with entrepreneurs have brought around €15m back to the university.
Besides the quantifiable outcomes, the UBC activities have significantly benefited all the stakeholders involved in the interaction. The industries profit from the academic up-to-date research and expertise, while the university expands the pool of research funding and its implementation opportunities. Moreover, practical orientation of the study programmes and students’ engagement in the science center activities positively influence students’ overall employability rates.
It is important to note that GUT’s promotion of the UBC within and outside the university contributes to the change in the perception of the role of HEIs with external engagement for a more sustainable regional development. With GUT’s transformation into an engaged university, the region has seen a boost in the development of entrepreneurial culture among its younger population, and cohesion and interconnectivity between public and private community stakeholders.
To learn more about the nature of the UBC activities at GUT, please access the full case study here.
©all rights on images used in this article belong to the Gdansk University of Technology