How KPMG is supporting university-industry collaborations

Sarah Jaber

Tim Cahill

In 2017, major changes to the incentives for university research were introduced by the Federal Government. The overarching theme is to provide incentives for collaboration between universities and non-university research users (public-, private- and non-profit-sector partners). Changes to Research Block Grant (RBG) allocations have led universities to more actively look for research partners, ranging from local industry to international businesses, to drive growth in Category 2-4 research income. While the aim of government is to drive more collaboration between universities and private-sector partners, there are significant barriers to success, including:
• Australia’s private sector is comprised of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) with few dedicated resources and expertise available to engage with universities
• Very few researchers work in Australian businesses so there are few people that understand the value of university research, and who can translate that value to businesses
• Cultural and administrative differences between the private sector and universities are often cited as a common barrier to engagement on both sides
In order to succeed in this context, universities need a clearly formulated strategy to engaging with industry and government partners. An initial step involves understanding what industry needs, and mapping how the university is uniquely placed to service those needs. Given that this is a very competitive market, and that the incentives for competition are increasing, understanding market position and points of competitive differentiation are key. Beyond that, management of research partnerships and ensuring they are delivering the desired outcomes can pose a challenge to institutions with already stretched resources.
KPMG has been working with both universities and industry, as a sector leader delivering services across the university-industry engagement value chain. Our services range from assisting with various parts of university-industry engagement, such as capability mapping or identifying potential industry partners, through to larger-scale outsourced end-to-end services.
We have developed an evidence-based approach to understanding both sides of the research engagement market. Our method allows us to identify emerging R&D trends and to undertake bibliometric analysis of a university’s research outputs to understand its strengths relative to the identified trends. Our approach includes identifying industry needs and problems, and bringing university researchers and industry partners together through co-design workshops to find ways to collaborate to solve problems.
Through our R&D tax services. KPMG has access to a large volume of R&D active firms nationally and globally, which we can use to identify potential industry partners. Using advanced analytics, we identify the best researchers across the country to address a particular industry need, and facilitate introductions. We provide project management across the engagement, and advise on IP and contracting, thereby reducing the administrative burden on university staff and allowing researchers to focus on research. We have developed a commercialisation framework that covers assessing an idea’s potential (market need and opportunity), through to concept and technical development and testing, to finally assist with implementing the commercialisation strategy, investor engagement and business plan execution. We work together with universities and industry to assess opportunities against this framework, to ensure that a comprehensive business plan and model is in place to commercialise new technologies.
Our approach draws on our understanding of the higher education sector and the challenges associated with university-industry collaborations, and provides universities with access to up to date and robust evidence to inform strategic planning processes around industry engagement and commercialisation.
This presentation will discuss some of the distinct challenges and opportunities associated with university-industry collaboration in Australia, and describe how KPMG’s innovative approach is helping organisations overcome these obstacles to support and drive more effective and sustainable partnerships that deliver value to universities, businesses, government and communities.