We thank you for the feedback, both positive and negative, on our recent article about cooperating with universities to solve complex development problems. In this blog post we would like to address some of your questions. Just to remind you – we have cooperated with the Czech Technical University by identifying four theoretical problems, assembling joint teams, and by merging the Manta Tools team’s business experience with the researchers’ deep theoretical insight. The end result has been that we’ve managed to significantly improve our product. So, let’s get to the most asked questions.
1) How do you deal with differences in organizational structure?
Obviously, universities and companies have very different internal structures. We’ve managed to assemble combined teams led jointly by our employees and head researchers or professors. The key is joint leadership – every team had one research leader (from CTU) and one production leader (from the Manta Tools team). Every week, leaders from all the teams sat down together to review current research and production processes, ensuring progress in both areas.
2) How do you solve problems with different working habits?
This is a tricky one. The company has only the employees it wants and needs. The Manta Tools team is full of hard-working highly-motivated professionals. Our research partners are also respected scientists, but students can join the teams on a voluntary basis (see the question below). It helps to provide the students with an opportunity to work on the company premises – they are not interns, but they’ll get company experience and are confronted with the everyday issues of full-time developers, even when they are researching theoretical models.
3) How do you motivate the best students to join your team?
We needed the best students to join our teams. The first step is to attract them. Passing flyers out is fine, but successful on-campus branding is also necessary. In addition to our usual research agreements, we’ve managed to achieve a special “gold partnership”, which has secured us a continuous presence at special university events, the promotion of our HR activities on campus, a couple of courses to be hosted by our employees and a top spot at the university job expo. In this way we were able to spread the word among students and get a steady flow of promising students and potential candidates for future cooperation.
So, to sum up:
- Joint leadership is the key to successful research-production teams.
- Optional workspace for students can help strengthen their ties to the project.
- Build your relationship with the university carefully.
Do you have a different opinion on university-business cooperation? Feel free to share your experiences with us via Twitter or email. The research project mentioned in this article was done in cooperation with the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic.