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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

We‘re Sentenced to Cooperation between Companies and Universities

Last year Masaryk Univeristy became a member of the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic as a result of its former informal cooperation. That’s why we asked the president of the Confederation Ing. Jaroslav Hanák and the vice-rector of MU for development Assoc. Prof. Markéta Pitrová, how they see the relationship between the Confederation and Masaryk University and between the business and the academic sphere in general.

Hanak

The President of the Confederation of Industry of CR, Ing. Jaroslav Hanák

How has the relationship between the academic and the business sphere changed in recent years? Is the significance of the cooperation increasing, or can we perhaps talk about a certain level of interdependence?

Jaroslav Hanák: The cooperation is definitely more intensive; however, it’s far from being  ideal. Companies are offering various internships or topics of diploma theses in order to form a relationship with their prospective employees as soon as possible. As far as research and development goes, companies and universities communicate more, which is reflected in the number of conferences dealing with this topic. The formerly heated confrontations of our Confederation with the Academy of Sciences lost their sharp edges. The state’s effort to give advantage to joint projects of companies and research institutions is also very commendable. I’m talking about the TA CR and MPO support programmes. The trend towards cooperation is manifesting itself also in the expansion of innovation vouchers which the South Moravian Region has a very good experience with.

Can one estimate in which direction this relationship will go in the future?

Jaroslav Hanák: I suppose it will become more intensive. With regard to the considerable European funds’ investments in research and development and in building new state-of-theart facilities, universities came up with a certain offer of services for companies. However, these new centres will need to be maintained and supported by private resources. That means universities have to show even more companies what they have to offer and address also small and medium-sized businesses. Our Confederation wants to play an important role in this matter – besides organizing conferences and networking events we want to present the universities’ offer to our members.

Markéta Pitrová: At Masaryk University we’re doing everything we can to change the situation. We’re addressing these issues in our strategic documents and we’re looking for other ways to increase the rate of applied results. How to start a collaboration between the academic and the commercial sphere? Our surroundings seem to support the application of science; however, in real-life there are number of restrictions. Take for example the Operational Programme Enterprise and Innovations (OPEI). For the last six months I’ve applied myself to making the conditions for universities more realistic. What’s unrealistic is that research institutions are seen as large companies and are required to provide substantial financial participation. If the conditions are set in the way that makes all universities unanimously claim that they can’t participate, something is wrong. Cooperation between companies and scientists can’t begin and goals won’t be reached. And that’s a pity because I believe that that’s where the future lies; in partnerships which we’ll try out with the help of aid schemes and which we’ll then maintain on our own.

The Confederation is an organization with a large number of members. Isn’t the membership of universities and similar research and educational institutions mostly symbolic? Is there a room for an actual cooperation?

Jaroslav Hanák: There is no room for any symbolic membership. We have a system of expert teams dealing with education as well as research, development and innovations and university representatives are involved in it. We meet with rectors and deans and deal with practical issues related to changes of educational system and research. We push the politicians to change the legislation. We support successful schools, cooperation of schools with companies, we seek to connect education with practice and change the school funding. We’ve managed to enforce tax benefits for companies which support polytechnic education at schools; we established the compulsory school-leaving examination in mathematics or standard contracts between students and companies. I’ve only mentioned a few parts of a large mosaic of what we do and what should change during the upcoming 4th industrial revolution. To achieve this, we need to strengthen the ties between business, schools and research.

pitrová

Vice-rector of MU for Development Assoc. Prof. Markéta Pitrová

What does Masaryk University expect from its membership?

Markéta Pitrová: One has to realize that the Confederation has its partners mostly among technical universities, which MU certainly isn’t. That’s why it’s such a great success. Only time will tell whether we manage to transform this membership into an active cooperation with companies. Personally, I see the Confederation as a partner for setting up conditions of programmes such as the afore-mentioned OPEI. I believe that we’ll manage to find common ground, as we already share the same interests – that is as many applied research results in our everyday lives as possible.