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Open innovation: interview with Alexandros Papaderos from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) Germany

Alexandros Papaderos of the Technical University of Munich talks with EUA about the importance of co-creation, the two types of research and university missions.

Co-creation between universities, students, businesses and other stakeholders is becoming more important for innovation. How do you at TUM organise this and reconcile the logics of the various actors?

Co-creation was the inspiration of the founders of our university in 1868. Since then, the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has made a major contribution to the technical advances we all enjoy today, often in cooperation with business enterprises and other stakeholders.

Co-creation and cooperation has enhanced the education of students and has given early insight into real-world problems and technology solutions to generations of young professionals. Scientific challenges have become more and more complex and scientists at regional, national or European levels join forces together with stakeholders from private businesses and the public sector in major collaborative projects.

TUM as an international university is facing a growing diversity in research setups and funding opportunities. With over 1 200 cooperation agreements every year with both large and small stakeholders, TUM reacted to present and upcoming challenges by creating and implementing a framework of binding guidelines, principles and model agreements. The TUM ForTe Office for Research and Innovation is the main contact point and coordinator for all contractual negotiations, in close and ongoing interaction with the TUM Board of Management and the Administration, concerning cooperation with academic and industrial partners. The model agreements and other materials were drafted in close interaction and collaboration with TUM members and our research and industry networking partners in order to achieve broad consent between the different stakeholders. The introduction of these clear and transparent rules and guidelines were generally perceived with positive feedback and discussion contributions.

How do you see the traditional separation of basic and applied research from the point of view of open innovation? Does it still make sense, or do we have to adapt our concepts and what does this mean for your daily work?

The focus of TUM is on both knowledge-oriented basic research and applied research driven by specific problems. TUM has always been working within the two spheres, following its fundamental mission to serve society.

These two types of research can cross-fertilise, if they are embedded in an environment that enables the transfer of knowledge and technology into the business world and the professional praxis. Following this concept, the relationship between basic and applied research should be dialogic and based on equal footing. Both types of research share the great social and economic responsibility for the future viability of our society.

From your perspective, what do you think is the biggest challenge universities are facing with regard to their innovation mission today and what would they need to address it?

What we need is the reorientation in the choice of research topics, the willingness of the scientists to provide and the readiness of economy and politics to provide sufficient and sustainable funding. If this is achieved within reasonable time frames, then concepts like freedom to discover or open innovation and the much-discussed third mission of universities will be successfully united and implemented for the benefit of society.

Alexandros Papaderos is a speaker at the EUA Annual Conference, “Driving innovation in Europe’s universities”, taking place this week at Sorbonne University in Paris. The Technical University of Munich participated in a major EUA study that led to the publication of the report “The Role of Universities in Regional Innovation Ecosystems”.

All views expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of EUA.

Alexandros Papaderos

Alexandros Papaderos is Deputy Head of the Office for Research and Innovation (TUM ForTe) at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Head of TUM Patents and Licenses. He was involved in the site visit organised at TUM in 2018 as part of the EUA project on “The Role of Universities in Regional Innovation Ecosystems”.

Photo credit: Astrid Eckert/TUM

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