Linking academic knowledge with businesses – developing innovation agents
In 2011 the JobCenter Odense and the organization Udvikling Fyn started this project as a pilot project where 20 innovation agents (unemployed academics; humanists or engineers) were matched with 20 Funen companies in order to develop 20 new products or services for the companies.
The purpose was to give Funen companies the opportunity to develop new, profitable products or services and to strengthen the innovation capacities while giving graduates ‘some real life experience’. Academics should be trained in companies while the company projects were developed by academics.
During the economic crisis innovation has been under pressure, so this project offered an affordable model of ‘innovation assistance’ in the form of targeted, since skilled labor for an affordable price can help to strengthen the company’s product development tasks for a limited period.
Research shows that academics contribute positively to the corporate bottom line.
Value for companies
The companies get
- a dedicated employee who can perform a selected product task – which might otherwise have been lying in the drawer
- relevant innovation tools that can be used both in the specific development task and as an inspiration for future development
- new product/service that can be sold on the market
The pilot project started as a 6½ months course.
Within in the first 2 weeks the academics were matched with local companies and they were offered a course on innovation methods to transform the unemployed academic into an innovation agent.
The following 6 months were devoted to activation of the academic innovation agents. The first 3 months of employment are free of charge for the companies since the innovation agents receive unemployment compensations and for the last 3 months the companies can receive subsidy.
The IDEA role
IDEA Entrepreneurship Centre was hired to give a 5 days course in innovation methods. The purpose was to prepare the academics for their debut in the working ‘real life’ and give them a course of idea generation/concept development methodologies and project management, and furthermore give them some tools to work systematically with project ideas in their new companies.
IDEA sent a team of 3 lecturers who had created a week with varied exercises and theory lessons. The agents will get a diploma stating their participation and the content of the course.
Tools and reflection questions for the week
- De Bono’s thinking hats
- NAF method (Novelty, Attractiveness, Feasibility) – Download pdf
- Business Modell Canvas
- Diploma (pdf)
Case: The Luciana Castelão story
39 -year-old Luciana Castelão, MA in culture and communication, and now working with selling high technology packing machines for the Odense company Roll-o-Matic.
Luciana is from Brazil, but has lived in Denmark since 1999 and speaks Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, English and some Spanish. Luciana was unemployed and she participated in the first course Academic Link.
Since August 2011 she has been employed as a marketing coordinator at the Roll-o-Matic.
The first six months Luciana was part of the project Academic Link, and the company got compensation from the state.
CEO and partner of Roll-o-Matic, Birger Sørensen, has been so enthusiastic about and happy for the project and Luciana, that the company have employed Luciana.
“We have 45 years of experience and already sell to 60 countries. When we wanted to be stronger in the Latin American market and Luciana both can speak Portuguese and communicate, it was obvious that this is the right match, “says Birger Sørensen, who believes Academic Link is a win for all parties.
” But both parties must be willing to adapt. Academicians must have a genuine interest in the business in which she/he is employed in, otherwise it will not work. And the company must have respect for the Academicians, they can help to communicate and sell the products that we as engineers develop and produce, “says Birger Sørensen.