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What it takes to make science and business connect
- There is substantial potential for increased collaborations but an uncritical embrace of science-industry partnerships is unhelpful
- Developing a successful collaboration can be thought of as a road trip divided up in four parts
- Setbacks are highly likely, surround yourself with people that support and encourage you
Researchers offer candid reflections on their experiences engaging with industries
A ROAD TRIP TO SUCCESS: Although science and industry have much to gain from working jointly towards a more sustainable stewardship of natural resources, scientists and business leaders still feel they operate on two different planets.
In a Perspective paper published in One Earth, centre researchers Henrik Österblom, Robert Blasiak and Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, together with colleagues from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UK and Japan, believe there is substantial potential for increased collaborations but an uncritical embrace of science-industry partnerships is unhelpful.
Sideways or the highway?
In the paper, the authors share their experiences working with marine industries in different parts of the world.
They reflect on whether such collaborations have allowed for “highways” to rapid progress or simply creating “sideways”, with lots of effort and little to show for it.
How to go about it then? Think of it as a road trip which is divided up in four parts:
- Load up the car
This means establish relationships founded on trust and mutual respect. Develop shared goals
- Pull out of the driveway
Clarify and formalise responsibilities and roles of all partners. Make sure things are transparent and maintain integrity
- Enjoy the ride
Learn and adapt as you go along. Accept that setbacks happen. Remain optimistic.
- Are we there yet?
Stay committed to the cause, things take time. Don’t let relationships diminish over time and keep agreements in written
The authors put a particular emphasis on there is the need for all parties involved to embrace a bold vision of ocean stewardship and create a respectful culture of learning and adapting.
One way to appreciate the ride is to be both reflective and reflexive. It is critical to remain open minded to the beliefs and values of others and to seek a mutual territory to initiate discussions.
Henrik Österblom, lead author
Setbacks are almost inevitable
With these recommendations, based on personal experiences from collaborations with medium to large industries, Österblom and his colleagues believe a successful partnership can take place.
There are several hurdles along the way, though:
- Sustainability scientists and business people do not always speak the same language. There are lots of jargons on both sides.
- Academic scientists have rarely been encouraged to engage with the private sector. Difficulties in securing funding for business partnerships along with other incentive structures within academia might turn scientists off from working with partners outside academia.
- There are inherent difficulties associated with trying to navigate a variety of goals, values, worldviews and beliefs.
Amid such hurdles, it is critical to remain open-minded and to seek to find mutual territory for discussions.
“No matter how well prepared you are and despite many well-intended partners, there is a high likelihood of setbacks,” Österblom explains.
“To cope with these frustrations, you need to stay optimistic and surround yourself with people that support and encourage you.”
Podcast: how to make science and business connect
Lisen Schultz, deputy director of transdisciplinarity at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), talks to SRC’s science director Henrik Österblom and Darian McBain, director for corporate affairs and sustainability at Thai Union, the world’s largest canned tuna producer. Together they will share thoughts and experiences on how it is working together to make the world’s largest seafood companies more sustainable.
Österblom, H., Cvitanovic, C., van Putten, I., Addison, P. Blasiak, R., Jouffray, J-B. et.al. 2020. Science-Industry Collaboration: Sideways or Highways to Ocean Sustainability? One Earth, Volume 3, Issue 1, 24 July 2020, Pages 79-88
For more information about the publication, please contact Henrik Österblom:
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