Relationship building process in university-industry joint research

Ikuo Terauchi
Hokkaido University

1. Introduction
While the number of joint research are steadily increasing in Japan, it is crucial to build good relationships by communication, mutual understanding and mutual trust in order to obtain high performance of joint research 1), 2), 3). By the way, there are a lot of specific impeding factors in university-industry (UI) collaboration in comparison with intercompany collaboration because organization and culture between them are completely different4),5). However it is not well studied in research literatures how to improve communication and establish mutual understanding and mutual trust for boosting their performance of joint research.
The purpose of this study is to clarify a building process for communication, mutual understanding and mutual trust that promote joint research successfully from the viewpoint of UI collaboration.

2. Research methodology
I conducted 15 experts with well experiences in UI collaboration and used a grounded theory approach for data analysis (Strauss and Corbin; 1990). I selected 15 UI collaborative managers with experience of negotiating UI collaborative activities for 5 years or more in Japanese universities or companies.

3. Results
The results of analysis show some specific points from the viewpoint of promoting joint research, unlike intercompany collaboration with common interests in pursuit of profits. These points are derived from the significance of university/company existence, the organizational structure and so on.
1) As a prerequisite for joint research in university, it is necessary that understanding and trust relationship between university researcher and UI collaborative manager through communication. Also business strategies and policy for open innovation in company are important as prerequisites.
2) There are communication layers in university and company respectively and it is important to conduct communication about each concerns of same layer or also different layer. The layers include a researcher, an UI collaborative manager and a university manager in the university, and a business division, an IP and legal manager and a business manager in the company.
3) Mutual understanding truly realizes positive behavior to understand a partner and think of a partner's position, based on the fact that university and company have completely different organization and culture. Despite much communication about only one’s position, it is impossible to realize mutual understanding unless convincing the partner that is the opposite side about a concept of pursuit of profit.
4) When mutual trust is built, both parties take actions to think about the partner's interests which leads to satisfaction of both parties. In addition, a feeling of security is the driving force to tighten relationships. However common consensus of the interests of university without own business is not fixed in the university, so there are some cases where the trust relationship can not be built well.
5) Communication, mutual understanding and mutual trust are established in order through especially individual relationship, and further progresses to a spiral shape, but trust relationship collapses easily if one party conducts distrusted action.
6) A performance evaluation metrics with joint research is changing and diversifying due to the trend of strengthening UI collaboration aimed at acquiring university’s research funding. So there are some cases appeared where the satisfaction of researcher and university are mismatched.

4. Conclusion and Discussion
According to the grounded theory analysis about joint research, the multiple layers of decision makers and interested departments within each organization are indicated, and the relationships among them are complicated. In this study, in addition to the existing research that communication, mutual understanding and mutual trust are effective in the organizational collaborations, "prior internal relationships", "communication between layers" and " performance evaluation " as new findings influences the performance of joint research.
Furthermore, the performance evaluation in joint research compared with intercompany collaboration changes due to the change in the evaluation metrics by strengthening UI collaboration for obtaining university’s research funding.
In the near future, in order to strengthen UI collaboration between organizations level, it is necessary to establish a new relationship-building process by communication, mutual understanding and mutual trust for boosting performance of joint research with a new metrics of performance evaluation in joint research.