For over a decade, Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) Potsdam, Cottbus and East Brandenburg have been facilitating ‘perspective exchange’ between industry partners and university professionals via exchange of offices or appointments for a day, or two. Since 2007 more than 100 scientists and entrepreneurs have swapped jobs as part of the project, leading to joint research, improved curricula, and internships and dual study options for the students of involved universities. Acknowledging the power of network and mutual understanding of the world of work in both fields, increasingly more stakeholders participate in the initiative, and gain better insights to expand their innovation activities.
How is the model operationalised?
The three CCIs take the major responsibility in the matching of the pairs and coordination of the activities. The program does not receive any funding from the government, thus any arising costs are shared by the participating organisations. The process starts with the identification and selection of the interested businesses in the exchange, based on their preparedness to collaborate with academic partners, which is followed by seeking a matching academic, and finalisation of the meeting dates. The exchange takes place over two days, where pairs first day visit the university, and second day the business, exchanging their perspectives on a topic they have identified before. According to CCI representatives, the form of the meetings do not follow a standard format. In some cases the academics take the students along with them to the company visit, and in others, the business representatives teach course modules in the HEIs on the theme of their business focus.
Successful pairings, successful results
The exchanges between the university and business representatives have so far resulted in new perspectives, and a number of new collaborations in research, teaching, and product development. One of the most recent examples include the exchange between the consulting agency Jupe & Pohl GmbH and Prof. Dr. Silke Michalk from the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg (BTU) in 2016. The consulting agency was interested in the transfer of knowledge, establishing contacts, and understanding recent developments in practice based topics. The meeting led to the agency reconsider their belief that HEIs tended to link with larger companies in the region. Prof. Dr. Silke Michalk on the other hand gained better insights into the problems within SMEs, and considered the exchange as vital for cooperation between HEIs and the industry. Besides perspective change, according to the interviews, one other exchange resulted in a government funded project supported by Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, within the SME Central Innovation Programme, and another exchange in a new product.
Motivation of the participants from the HEIs and businesses is considered as the most vital element of a successful exchange. This is ensured by the CCIs in their initial interactions with potential pairs, during which the organisations have to find an answer for ‘what is in it’ for them. The CCIs help SMEs identify their weaknesses, and guide them for potential support they can receive from academic partners. This allows collaborations to grow on a safe and stable base, with stronger ties leading to relevant research, improved curriculum, better qualified graduates, and new innovative business models and quality staff for regional SMEs.
To learn more about the program PerspektivWechsel, read the full case study here.
This blog is based on a case study originally written by Alina Dreier (Science-to-Business Marketing Research Centre).
 “PerspektivWechsel – Rollentausch mit Folgen”. Accessed 23/4/2018 at http://www.mwfk.brandenburg.de/cms/detail.php/bb1.c.446572.de