The University of Oxford has been using an innovative event format to successfully engage with SMEs. AIMday (Academic Industry Meeting day), originally developed by Uppsala University in Sweden, is a bespoke academic-industry networking event format, which has now been licenced out to 17 different universities from across Europe, North America, South America and Africa.
AIMday is an innovative event format for effective academic-industry networking. The University of Oxford’s medical sciences business development team has been using the format since 2016 and have, to date, run seven AIMdays in different research themes, including biomedical imaging, antimicrobial resistance & healthy ageing.
AIMdays provide companies with a platform to host roundtable discussions with a group of academics with common interests. Each discussion is focused around a question or “challenge” that the company submits and this allows industry to set the agenda for the day. Academics and clinicians from across the University of Oxford then sign up to participate in multidisciplinary discussions centred around these questions, with academics attending from a wide range of different departments.
Why use the AIMday format?
For our academics, AIMdays provide them with a chance to find out how their knowledge could be used to solve industry challenges. It is also a great way for them to widen their network and to meet potential industrial collaborators and employers. The majority of academics attending the AIMdays are at postdoc level (59%), followed by professors or principal investigators (22%) and finally DPhil students (15%), making it a great opportunity for early-career researchers to get exposure to industry in an informal setting.
Participating companies also benefit by accessing a group of self-selecting researchers with whom there may be potential collaborative opportunities. In particular, the AIMday format provides a low barrier route for SMEs to engage with a wide range of academics and clinicians at the University. There is no cost to participants, apart from their time. This, together with the assurance that companies will be meeting academics with common interests, is a great incentive for SMEs, who often have limited time and flexibility.
For larger companies, it allows them to expand their existing networks and meet academics in disciplines with whom they may not usually interact. Over the last seven AIMdays we have run, 58% of the companies participating were SMEs. Additionally, at our most recent AIMday, in Healthy Ageing, 50% of the companies that responded to our post-event survey said that the event facilitated their first interaction with Oxford academics.
“Excellent event! We received tangible, practical advice on some of the technical challenges we are facing for our early stage antibacterial programmes.” – industry representative from Oppilotech
“The AIMday enabled me to meet academics with research interests close to my own, but from departments I wouldn’t usually interact with.” – industry representative from Evotec
Following on from an AIMday, we continue to be in touch with participating companies to support further conversations between them and Oxford academics and clinicians, as well as to provide useful information, for example, on funding opportunities in relevant areas. In this way, the AIMdays have proven to be an excellent tool for building communities of companies around strategic research themes.
AIMday is a registered trademark owned by Uppsala University.