Firms must invest in university partnerships
THE EDITOR, Sir:
The reform programme that is being administered by the present Government and the International Monetary Fund is beginning to produce benefits.
For example, Jamaica's improvement on the Ease Of Doing Business index can largely be attributed to this structural adjustment programme being pursued.
However, it must be noted that the Government alone cannot rescue Jamaica from its economic abyss. Our universities and major corporations must seek to boost innovation by engaging in more collaborative research projects. Facilitating such partnerships is never easy, because of a plethora of factors - from intellectual property issues to cultural differences within the academy. These barriers are not present only in Jamaica, so they ought not to be used as excuses for our lethargy.
It cannot be overstated that a transformation of our universities is needed if collaborative research partnerships are to be successful. Local universities could create formal mechanisms like corporate affiliate programmes to foster partnerships with industry. This is basically a fee-based programme, designed for companies that are interested in exploiting research capabilities of a university. Industry liaison officers who are responsible for facilitating a relationship between a university and an industrial partner may also be useful.
However, funding will play a key role in bolstering this partnership. Entrepreneurs are more confident to invest in a university when its facilities are superior and the revenues generated from the commercialisation of research can be used as a source of financing to create world-class infrastructure.
Such arrangements are quite complex, so it would be apt for Jamaica to send a delegation to study Israel's Yeda Research and Development Company Limited - an expert in the field of commercialising research.
Moreover, companies are also expected to play their part in boosting research. For example, Cisco Canada recently provided the University of New Brunswick with a CDN$2-million endowment to establish a Cisco Chair in Advanced Learning Technologies to promote innovation at the university through industry linkage projects. Profitable Jamaican companies could follow this example.
Eminent individuals are suggesting that the country is making progress. Therefore, they should show initiative by innovating, because some things are not controlled by the Government.