Strengthen your university and its research
AIMday excels at getting world-class university expertise (and researchers) out of the labs and into the realms of industry. In a world characterised by numerous attempts to achieve knowledge transfer, AIMday stands out as a textbook example of how seats of learning can take on real world challenges and deliver fresh understanding and perspectives that may help solve them. It’s a short, sharp and simple tool for creating contacts and collaborations with the business and public sector communities at large.
AIMday stands for Academic Industry Meeting Day. As the name suggests, it’s a day where a university’s academic experts meet representatives from external organisations. But what makes AIMday special – many would say unique – is the format of that meeting.
One question. One hour. Endless possibilities.
Specific questions put by companies or organisations form the meeting day agenda. You then match their requests with the academic expertise at your disposal. The outcome is a day crammed with a series of ‘one question, one hour’ workshops where teams of approximately five to twelve individuals sit around a table to candidly discuss each topic. It’s an exchange of knowledge and ideas focused on finding novel approaches – a starting point for qualified collaboration rather than a miracle cure.
Questions focused on organisations’ real challenges
AIMday is truly multi-disciplinary. As a university, you have the opportunity to approach an industry or sector whose need to deal with specific challenges mirrors your academic strengths. You select the themes(s). That’s why they underlie all AIMday meetings. But industry formulates the questions. That gives them real-world relevance.
Life science and materials technologies are fields where AIMday has met with immediate success. Yet the concept need not be restricted to science and technology, or to commercial companies. It is equally effective for national or local government organisations, trade bodies or non-profit associations. There’s thus ample opportunity to get your humanities or social science faculties involved as well.
Just how successful is AIMday?
No one leaves an AIMday without a smile on their face. Everyone wins something. Researchers better understand real needs of organisations and how this can impact their own research. Companies and organisations recognise your university as a valuable and accessible resource in the future. You succeed in making knowledge exchange really work.
As Ian Sharp, Commercial Relationship Manager at the University of Edinburgh, the first UK university to organise AIMday, notes:
“It’s a win-win situation for both academia and industry. Our researchers are already asking for new themes”.
Jacqueline Barnett, Innovation Office Director at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, is equally enthusiastic.
“The AIMday on Advanced Manufacturing offered a new approach to forming academia-industry collaborations. The well-structured format allowed for open engagement on solutions to challenges faced by industry and the formation of new project collaborations. Uppsala University guided us in organising and hosting the event. Overall, AIMday was a success and a positive experience for the NMMU researchers, industry participants and our team”.
What are the metrics?
Several surveys have demonstrated the success of AIMday. Even though it is not expected to solve problems on the spot, immediate feedback is always very positive. For example, 83% of all participants say, “Yes I made new contacts” while 94% state “I gained new knowledge about the topics discussed” and 90% confirm “The discussions were relevant for my work”.
However, the main aim of AIMday is to act as a launch pad to explore and initiate collaborative projects further down the line, and how that cooperative development spins out long-term is generally kept out of the public eye. Nevertheless, of the twenty workshops held at a materials-themed AIMday in 2014, thirteen applications for ‘seed-funding’ collaborative projects were later submitted, a sure sign that AIMday does lead to new university/industry investments.
Göran Stenberg, patent coordinator at the global engineering group Atlas Copco says:
“This year we brought questions about magnetism and impact surfaces, to discuss them and become a bit smarter. We won’t get answers to our questions here, but we gain new perspectives that will enable us to move on and solve the problems. The meeting was extremely interesting. Now we’re going to take this home for discussion and then get back to one of the researchers in the group.”
Key outcomes recorded in a survey conducted by the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management at Uppsala University revealed that 73% of external participants considered that AIMday created the prerequisites for useful academic collaboration projects, while 40% stated that their participation in AIMday led to actual project(s) being started.
How to organise an AIMday – it’s all in the manual
Uppsala University provides training and support for AIMday. To enable other universities to organise and run an event as smoothly as possible, we have put together a manual that describes in detail all you need to know and do. Based on many years of practical experience, it covers the concept, its objectives and components as well as the tools and support that enable its successful implementation. From registration and cloakrooms, meeting room size and furnishings, mingle areas and food and drink to travel and parking arrangements, everything you need to know is there. In addition, the AIMday brand visual identity is packaged in user-friendly graphic guidelines.
When organising an AIMday for the first time, the entire six-step ‘planning to follow-up’ process spans about eight months. Getting the scope right is one key issue and here we can advise you on good benchmark numbers for questions/workshops as well as numbers of academic researchers and representatives from organisations. Furthermore, since about half of the workshops result in requests for feasibility funding, the possibility to offer pre-study funds, even in a limited form, will be seen as very positive.
What staffing and resources are needed?
As an organiser of AIMday (the licensee), you will need to allocate energetic people with a broad range of managerial and social skills, as well as the necessary time, to the task. A designated AIMday Coordinator is essential, as is an Organising Committee. Once again, the AIMday Manual gives full details of staffing plus exactly what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and how many working hours are required.
Uppsala University establishes a dedicated licensee website in the form of www.aimday.se/‘theme name’. This also permits access to tailored AIMday administrative tools (including registration), which ensures that all preparations run smoothly. Practical training (essential for the AIMday Coordinator) is also provided. This takes place via Skype, for example, and/or face-to-face either at your site or in Uppsala.
What costs are involved in organising and running AIMday?
Participation in AIMday is free of charge for everyone, both academic researchers and representatives from organisations, even if the latter are large commercial companies.
Since one key goal of Uppsala University’s AIMday is to create added value for research faculties at other leading universities (and thereby help build up and share innovation know-how with them), the only fee we request of a licensee is the full cost of the training and support that we provide. This naturally varies from event to event.