Co-Design of University-Industry Partnership: The RICAP Case at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice

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The development of innovative approaches to collaboration with industry and other institutions represents a strategic commitment for Ca’ Foscari University (further the University) to boost its research and enhance its results by contributing to social, technological and economic growth. The departments of the University have always successfully and continuously co-operated on applied research projects and initiatives with enterprises and institutions. In this context, the interaction with particularly innovative companies, that recognize the value of public research, have been the harbinger of novel partnership schemes and arrangements. One of these is a new affiliation program for research and innovation, named RICAP (Research and Innovation Corporate Affiliates Programme).

The aim of RICAP is to multiply the opportunities for collaboration between the University and its affiliated entities and give consistency to joint activities contributing to mutual competitiveness. RICAP was designed starting from an assumption that a structured and far-reaching partnership would make it possible to settle both the needs of the University and those of businesses: increasing the impact of technology transfer activities, reinforcing training and support processes for the employment of young researchers, and streamlining as well as simplifying processes for managing collaborations. Two strategic partners of the university were actively involved into the design of the framework affiliation agreement from the very first steps, so that the result could effectively meet industry needs, resolving the main issues that the public-private relationship could present.

Through RICAP, the University is committed to organising initiatives useful for launching research collaborations and knowledge transfer on topics of interest of the affiliate. Participation in RICAP allows privileged access to the project results developed by Ca’ Foscari, facilitates cooperation in research and exploitation of these results, speeds up new entrepreneurial initiatives and creation of new infrastructures. Collaborations are regulated through executive agreements consistent with the nature and objectives of individual initiatives.

Through RICAP the University commits to:

–           organising “R&I Matchmaking” events in scientific fields of interest to the affiliate;

–           organising Active Research Labs with PhD students and research fellows to find solutions to affiliate’s innovation challenges. These labs take the form of open innovation sprints;

–           pre-arranging intellectual properties and non-disclosure terms and conditions.

Through RICAP, Ca’ Foscari plans to set up joint research programmes with its affiliates, fostering reciprocal contamination to promote better integration between research and training activities carried out in university laboratories and those carried out by companies. The aim is to promote a real exchange of knowledge between companies and universities, going beyond a now obsolete approach based on the promotion of a one-way flow from academia to industry. In the long term, the programme has an ambitious aim of becoming a benchmark for building increasingly effective partnership between universities and businesses, introducing a radical change of paradigm that eliminates distance and supports interaction between fundamental and applied researchers, while also succeeding in involving industry in frontier research projects.

The encounter with Brenta Srl, an innovative start-up, which was launched thanks to a patent of the Department of Molecular Sciences and Nanosystems, has produced effective synergies. They became concrete in the company’s participation in the design of the affiliation programme and the subsequent cooperation in a new PhD programme, in joint research projects, as well as innovative Active Research Labs. Brenta Srl has eagerly embraced a proposed new model of partnership that represents an effective interpretation of the concept of open innovation as it allows a continuous movement of scientists between the two entities.

The decision to use co-design techniques and the continuous dialogue maintained between PINK (Ca’ Foscari KTO) and the affiliates, even during the implementation phases, has had a significant impact on growing mutual understanding and trust. The company’s involvement since the conception phase has allowed to shape the program according to the needs of both the University and industry. Now Brenta Srl has become an important testimonial of the programme being able to account for significant results in terms of impact achieved since the first year of its implementation.

Picture credit Ca’ Foscari University