During the last weeks I read a few articles and opinions about Technology Transfer and R&D (one here at nowEurope by Günther Krumpak). It seems that researchers are often blamed for their “ivory tower” mentality and in consequence for a lack of willingness to cooperate with industry. Whereas this might by the case for many researchers I would like to highlight another reason for the gap between universities and SMEs:
The phenomenon of the ivory tower mentality is the consequence of an old fashioned institutional setting, which has been changed only superficially within the last universities reforms (like e.g. “the Bologna process”)
On the side of universities it is not only a matter of individuals living in “ivory towers” or having just another “culture”. There are many capable researchers willing to cooperate with the business, but there are as well institutional and legal reasons, which keeps faculties or researchers them from working closely with industry. Without going to much into detail, I claim that if you break it down there is only a handful of universities and some more faculties capable of doing R&D. It is a structural problem, not one of a refusal of individual researchers: It is as well a matter of organisation (are research projects supported by bosses or seniors, by the faculty, do they have the time, who do they report to, how do they legitimize their position?), legal issues (ipr, patents), financial issues (equipment etc.) So although some criticism is for sure justified I think the crucial point is to operate as well on political and institutional level in order to improve the situation. It will certainly not help just to put some SME and some researchers in a cage, add a buffet and wait until they start writing business plans.
Anyway some R&D is indeed happening, here you will find some recently awarded projects (unfortunately only in German):