Debate looks at ways of aligning research and industry needs

Šempeter pri Gorici, 17 November - Transfer of knowledge from research institutions to industry dominated a round table held in Šempeter pri Gorici on Tuesday as part of the 10th Innovation Forum. The debate revolved around efforts for making research activities useful for industry.

One of the complaints from business is that much of the research work performed in the country is not useful for companies in Slovenia, which was raised by co-founder of IT company Optilab Štefan Furlan.

Efforts in Slovenia must therefore be focused on better aligning the activities of research institutions with the needs of industry.

One way is for research projects to be directly funded by industry, as highlighted by Rok Petkovšek, a project manager at the Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS) working on the development of laser materials.

"Half of the money [for the projects] comes from industry," Petkovšek said, adding that this was a way of guaranteeing that the research work provided for the needs of industry.

Head of the Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre at IJS Špela Stres said that optimal forms of knowledge transfer varied from one industry to another, which is why various approaches need to be applied.

A key first step in providing for strong transfer of knowledge is to build confidence among entrepreneurs in the work of Slovenian research institutions, said Marjan Beleta of the Chemistry Institute.

"If we do not establish more personal contacts between research institutions and industry, there can be no knowledge transfer," Beleta said.

Responding to the complaint that the work of research institutions was not aligned with the needs of industry in Slovenia, Albin Pintar of the Chemistry Industry said that much of the research work was also intended for foreign partners.

There are few companies in Slovenia which can directly utilise the know-how developed at the Chemistry Institute, said Pintar, who added that the institute had therefore sought links with foreign companies.

One way of providing for better application of research work in industry is by hiring more researchers with a feel for business, said Simon Pevec of the Faculty of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Maribor.

"Making something which appeals to the masses presents a bigger challenges, but the results are much more rewarding," said Pevec.