De Luca, Damian, Taylor, Ruth and Prigmore, Martyn (2014) Rules of engagement: understanding the dynamics of social enterprise and business requirements on academic collaboration. In: University industry interaction conference, 24 - 25 April 2014, Barcelona.

As part of its remit to support University Business collaboration the University of Huddersfield provides seed funding for collaborative ventures between academic and industry partners to initiate small-scale projects that have the potential for growth. (This is trickle down funding from the UK government Higher Education Innovation Fund). This case study explores the experience of University-Business collaboration of Canalside Studios, the University of Huddersfield’s in-house games research and development studio.

Individuals and companies seeking help and advice to develop business products frequently approach the University with business ideas but matching the needs and expectations of both University and business can be difficult. This paper provides a reflective case study account of the experiences of one academic team working with different external partners on serious games and software development projects. The partners range from a fire service requiring a training command simulator to a reading game to encourage elementary stage learners for use in the classroom and at home.

The findings show that managing relationships between the University and external partners is time consuming with a great deal of effort needed, particularly in the early stages of a project, to achieve shared understanding of goals and outcomes. Partnerships with smaller organisations or individuals often require more intensive management than those with larger organisations who are more familiar and may have prior experience or existing mechanisms to support this. Collaborations with partners who value the research and educational values of the University are likely to result in mutually agreed success and are more valued by academics as these lead to publication of the product and the dissemination of the learning. Collaborations with partners with purely business-oriented goals or who are not perceived to understand academic values are more likely to falter; academics can see these relationships as “time theft”. Seed funding for this type of project is valuable and tempting but can attract interest from individuals and organisations who are looking for a way of off-setting costs rather than seeking a genuine University-Business partnership, with benefits for all.

As a continuing study, we suggest strategies gained through the initial 8 years experience of University-Business collaborations through Canalside Studios. Our experience suggests that universities can and should adopt filtering techniques with potential business collaborators, to match expectations and ensure higher chances of project success for all stakeholders and a better focus on relationships with potential for long term partnership and mutual success.

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