It’s not the most obvious of partnerships: businesses – small, nimble, and quick to turn on a sixpence reacting to market forces, and universities – large, hulking, “education-focused” institutes full of academic-knowledge. Where could the common ground possibly lie?

What if I told you that combining the skills and experience of the two could unlock new growth opportunities on local, national and international levels? What if both parties had a mutual interest for entirely different reasons and could benefit by working together?

For businesses, this could be the chance to deliver new innovation within their industry, gain market share, or to scale their operations. For universities, this is the opportunity to apply expertise and knowledge to solve practical, real-world challenges.

In short: Collaboration can be productive economically and academically.

But type the word ‘collaboration’ into Google and the definitions you get back are somewhat at odds. It can either be defined as “the action of working with someone to produce something” or “traitorous cooperation with the enemy”.

Hopefully you don’t see us as “the enemy” and you’ll allow me to indulge a minute of your time as to why working together can lead to success.

Business-university collaborations

In my experience, the best collaborations are the ones that have grown over time. They start with a small – positive – interaction, with both parties then looking at the next-steps of how they could potentially work together to solve bigger challenges. It takes time, but it works.

In my experience, the best collaborations are the ones that have grown over time.

An example of this at the University of Portsmouth includes companies who have worked with our students on business consultancy projects and become partners on bids, undertake a joint-funded project, employ a student on a placement year, or hired a graduate.

In each of these circumstances there was a problem businesses were looking to solve and a way that universities could play a part in offering a solution. By starting a conversation, both groups were able to find beneficial and equitable ways to work together. Everybody wins.

As with any partnership, you need to choose your ‘collaborator’ carefully. There needs to be a common interest and common goal in working together. This doesn’t always mean an equal share of the workload but it does mean both parties are committed to succeeding.

Trust is crucial. Knowing that both parties can rely on the other to be open and honest – about how the collaboration will work – are the foundations of creating growth opportunities. Each party has a vested interest in working together and this builds strong partnerships.

And the type of relationship is flexible based on the needs of the business. Where some might want smaller, less-intensive arrangements, others might seek fully-collaborative research undertakings or Government-funded project partners. The choice is yours.

Find out more

On Wednesday 19th June 2019, the University of Portsmouth – with Solent University, Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, and Solent LEP – are hosting a session on winning new business in the Solent region.

The keynote speech will be delivered by Gary Jeffries, Chair of the Solent LEP, and the morning event includes talks from Mike Sellers, Director of Portsmouth International Port, and Neil Garwood, MD of Southampton Airport.

Mike and Neil will discuss upcoming expansion and investment plans for the port and airport respectively. They will talk about how local businesses can benefit from new opportunities to be part of the supply chain and downstream-benefits from the expansions.

There will be two panel sessions, hosted by the University of Portsmouth and Solent University, on scaling your business internationally and workforce development that prepares you for entering new markets.

Final thoughts

We want to show businesses what the opportunities are and how they can take advantage of them to grow.

The word ‘collaboration’ has a broad interpretation attached to it. Part of what we want to do at the University of Portsmouth is break-down perceptions. We want to show businesses what the opportunities are and how they can take advantage of them to grow.

Through communication and cooperation, businesses can overcome growth constraints and universities can give more back to industry. By approaching a problem together, you get a broad-range of experience looking at new ways to solve problems. As the saying goes: “Two heads are better than one”