Participating in various events can make it easier for you to build relationships and to spread, exchange or jointly create knowledge with actors outside the academy.
Photo: Ida Åberg
Some examples of recurring meeting places are:
AIMday is an annual event, where organisations and companies submit questions regarding current challenges that they would like to discuss with you as a researcher at Umeå University. You then register, based on your expertise and interest, to talk about at least one of these challenges.
The result is a day filled with a series of mini-workshops, where you meet in groups of about five to ten people for an hour-long discussion on each question. As the questions are often relevant to several different sciences, you also get the chance to take part in other researchers' perspectives.
During AIMday, you will have the opportunity to find contacts, collaborations and ideas for new research questions based on current societal challenges. In addition, you can often apply for seed money to take good collaboration ideas further.
Read more about the AIMday concept
Social Innovation in the North
Social Innovation in the North is an annual conference for networking and knowledge exchange in social sustainability. The organisers are Forum for Social Innovation Sweden at Umeå University and Luleå University of Technology, Coompanion in Norrbotten and Västerbotten, as well as Umeå Municipality and Luleå Municipality.
Read more about Social Innovation in the North (in Swedish)
Umeå University's strategic partnerships
Within the framework of the long-term collaborations with the municipalities of Umeå, Skellefteå and Örnsköldsvik, Region Västerbotten and Volvo Trucks, recurring activities such as partner days and workshops are arranged.
Read more about the partnerships
Dig where you stand
Another tip is to take a closer look at the network of contacts that already exists within education at your department. Many courses and programmes probably collaborate with various companies, associations and organisations. For example, who act as guest lecturers, participate in industry councils, offer internships or collaborate on ex-jobs? At best, a potential partner is closer than you think.
Tips to facilitate collaboration
Before you start looking for partners to collaborate with, it is wise to think about what you want to achieve with your research. What are your driving forces and goals? The clearer your vision, the more likely you are to be strategic both in your search for a partner and in your future collaboration.
If you want help in the process, you can always turn to us at the Research Support and Collaboration Office for ideas and suggestions.
Below you will find some tips that can facilitate collaboration.
Set aside enough time and resources from the start
It is not a matter of course that everyone knows the conditions of the university world and how research is carried out. Some companies and organisations have experience of collaborating with researchers and others do not. In the same way, we at the university can be ignorant of the missions, tasks and conditions of other organisations. Therefore, it is important to set aside time right from the start to get to know each other and find out what conditions both parties have. What can and do we want to do together – and what should we refrain from doing?
Communicate mutual expectations, wishes and requirements early on
Collaboration means that people from businesses with different goals, tasks and use of language must collaborate. This can be enriching, but at the same time far from easy.
Different views of time are a typical source of problems. Within the academic world, we are aware that research is time-consuming and complex. External partners, on the other hand, may want to start things more or less immediately and expect quick results.
By communicating early on how you view your research based on your role as a researcher and letting your partner describe their logic and incentives, you can hopefully avoid future misunderstandings.
Formulate the task together and agree on who is responsible for what
As a researcher, you likely have greater insight into ways to effectively formulate and tackle a research question. At the same time, your partner may be more aware of the actual problem in practice. You therefore need a curious and humble approach to each other's skills and ideas when you are to lay the foundation for your joint work.
When collaboration goes awry, it is often a matter of not having talked through and agreed on the project's starting point, expected outcomes, distribution of time, resources and responsibilities. Therefore, it may be wise to put some effort into developing a joint timetable, discuss how decisions should be made, how results should be presented and how you should meet and keep in touch.
Talk to each other about your motivations and driving forces
It is not uncommon for motivation and driving forces to differ between researchers and collaborators. A possible source of friction may, for example, concern openness and dissemination of results. While one party may want to keep the results secret, the other may be eager to share them. Consequently, it is important to talk about and understand the conditions you have to deal with, as well as to agree on how to do just that.
Be aware of differences in language and communication
Try to be as explicit as possible and clarify what you mean, rather than assuming that the other person always understands your terminology. Seemingly simple words like result, solution, model and tool can mean completely different things inside and outside academia.
Stay in touch
Even if you have a well-planned schedule of meetings, things will happen. Someone may become ill, key persons or entire organisations may need to reprioritize. When work piles up, it can feel almost impossible to find meeting times that work for everyone. Nevertheless, it is very important not to lose each other if the cooperation is to continue in the desired direction.
Hovering in uncertainty often leads to speculation and questioning. So, as strange as it may sound, it is better to communicate that you currently do not have time to meet or that there is still nothing to report than to have no contact at all.
Get help from others in the collaboration process
Keep in mind that you can get support from several different actors both within and outside the university. Do not hesitate to take help from, for example, the Research Support and Collaboration Office, the Innovation Office or to consult colleagues who have gone through the same process you are facing.