Famous for encapsulating Norway’s rich history and nature, the Trondheim region is also known for its long-standing culture of education. One premier example is the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) that has emerged as a result of a merger of three university colleges in the region, with one from Trondheim, and two from the surrounding cities of Ålesund and Gjøvik.
NTNU is practice-oriented university with educational offerings that are deeply rooted in the requirements of companies in the region. Most of the departments have already developed networks and communities of practice that link their students and researchers with the real-world environment. A program that typifies this industry-based approach to education is the newly opened ‘Global Manufacturing Management Program’ (GMM). The program aims to equip students with practical skills of logistics and value chain management in technology-oriented global manufacturing companies.
GMM as an example of NTNU’s collaborative approach
GMM is a two years master’s program that is collaborative both in its internal structure and external orientation. Internally it is jointly designed and run by the departments of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering and Industrial Economics & Technology Management within the Faculty of Engineering. Additionally, the input of other departments is used as the program is interdisciplinary in its nature.
At the same time the program brings key external stakeholders on board from the industry side through various platforms. In this regard the “Smartlog” network hosted by NTNU’s Production Management Research Group is a good example. The network is an interest group in the area of logistics and supply chain management that brings together the university’s researchers, students and manufacturing companies in the region. The Smartlog platform allows companies to provide real-world challenges that are used to design and update curricula at NTNU. Moreover, the companies can use the occasion to interact with and recruit students for future employment.
While NTNU collaborates with over hundred business institutions – including some of the main employing organizations in Norway, e.g. Statoil, Elkem, and Hydro Automotive – its partnership with SINTEF is worthy of note. SINTEF is one of the largest think-tanks in Europe that undertakes contracted research for institutions both in the private and public sectors. NTNU and SINTEF have a long-standing and deeply intertwined history of collaboration, with an extensive use of joint resources. As the main stakeholder in the GMM program, SINTEF provides students the opportunity to take part on an actual ongoing research project being undertaken by its team. Moreover, SINTEF offers internships for students, allowing them to design their thesis in a way that will address the practical challenges of the institute.
Lessons for other regions
A number of important lessons can be drawn from the experience of NTNU. Perhaps the main learning is how a university leverages its formal and informal relationship with the local authorities and the industry in order to design highly responsive and relevant educational programs. The second remarkable aspect is the approach NTNU has taken to institutionalize external collaboration across all levels of the organisation. As can be substantiated by the several departmental networks at NTNU, the university has managed to infuse the idea of collaboration among its academics. Lastly, as its partnership with SINTEF – one that involves participation of over 500 joint staff – clearly shows that collaborating with external stakeholders is not a one-way process where the university is the sole knowledge provider.
Do you want to learn more about the NTNU approach to collaborative innovation? Please find the original case study here.
This blog is based on a case study originally written by Pierre Lindman (Technopolis Group).
©all rights on images used in this article belong to NTNU.