Research is about solving relevant problems for the best of humanity. However, the relevance of certain problems is a highly subjective matter. Is it relevant to send a human being to Mars? Maybe it is, or maybe not. One thing is for sure: research is expensive. As far as I know, it is sustained mostly by funds and grants. I believe that the best way to boost funding is by increasing interest in research investment. Therefore, researchers should dedicate a significant portion of their efforts to strengthen the bonds between their work and the local industry. Let’s discuss how.
First, let’s face the fact that governments and institutions pay for research grants. Hence, our research is mostly sustained by public money and other non-profit organizations. For example, in Sweden, the Swedish Research Council is a government agency within the Ministry of Education and Research that gives significant funding to all scientific disciplines. Therefore, the amount of money injected into research heavily depends on the vision of large entities out of the control of individual researchers.
In this context, applying for grants is a battlefield because the demand vastly exceeds the offer. For researchers, demonstrating the impact of their work on the industry is very relevant. It can lead to a faster acceptance of their grant applications.
The best way to augment the flow of economic support for research is by showing the many benefits of allocating money into it. Showing the impact for the local industry is key to increase the understanding of the long-term societal benefits. For example, fruitful collaboration between academic researchers in the area of software technology is crucial for modern economies. Shortening the distance between academic research and the industry is a matter of common interest for both parties.
What does the academic community can do?
Here is a non-exhaustive list of actions for researchers:
- Disseminate their results beyond the academic community
- Create platforms for the general public to show the impact of their contributions
- Go there (to companies), listen to their questions and problems, and interact with them
- Promote events and invite people from the industry to present the technology that they deploy on a daily basis
- Create open-source organizations, contributing together with academics, engineers, and the community there
Why is it challenging?
Accomplishing these tasks effectively is challenging for researchers because it requires changing long-lasting habits. Getting out of the comfort zone by presenting research work to a large crowd of very focused industrial engineers is not easy. But it is very worth it. For its impact to society, for mutual innovation and knowledge sharing, and for the sustainability of the whole research business .