Aalborg University and Bang & Olufsen break new ground with research collaboration
Bang & Olufsen’s research department in Struer and Aalborg University agree that they collaborate well, but also agree that they want to be even better.
A new model of collaboration with researchers from AAU working one day a week in the B&O research department gave rise to a research project investigating how close integration of university and company activities can create even better research results.
Anja Overgaard Thomassen, from the Institute of Culture and Learning (previously Institute for Learning and Philosophy), has participated in the project, focusing on organisational capacity building.
When the research project was initiated during the spring of 2017, the collaboration between B&O and AAU had already existed for almost six months. The target was both to solve engineering challenges and to increase research capacity in both organisations. The participants were all familiar with the collaboration process, but none had previously taken part in it.
Purpose of the project
The purpose of the project is to clarify the possibilities and challenges involved in a close collaboration between a large private company and AAU. The following questions have been investigated:
What possibilities and challenges do AAU researchers experience when they participate in close, long-term collaborations with the surrounding world? What career opportunities and challenges emerge?
How can B&O’s research department benefit from direct access to university research?
How can a balance be created between research and practical problem solving?
How can a close collaboration be created to promote mutual organisational capacity building?
The research design
An important principle in this study was that it should be close to the organizational context where the collaboration between B&O and AAU played out in practice. The study therefore consisted of five days of observations undertaken on the days when the researchers were working at B&O. Meeting activities were also monitored during these days.
Furthermore, 18 interviews were conducted with AAU scientists, the institute leader and the Dean from AAU. At B&O, interviews were conducted with employees in the research department, B&O’s head of research, the Head of Development and the Vice President. The intent was to put the concrete collaboration in a larger organisational context in order to clarify the interaction between collaboration and organisational and management relations.
The study was completed with a presentation and workshop held at B&O for employees, the Head of Research and other individuals in central management.
The study showed that all participants found testing out new forms of collaboration very interesting and relevant, but a number of challenges were also encountered, For instance, the question arose as to what role the AAU researchers should have in the company, as they were neither consultants nor B&O employees. Moreover, one of the questions facing the AAU researchers was how they themselves could utilize the collaboration with B&O as a stepping stone in their own research careers.
The study made it clear that cooperating is not something you just do. Creating a well-functioning inter-organisational collaboration is most likely to succeed when you bear in mind that. as collaboration is carried out both by scholars and the organisation, problem solving cannot be the sole focus. The research project has led to an increased focus on collaboration as a processes that is undertaken together, rather than as a simple transfer between two organisations.
In the summer of 2019, the study was followed by an additional round of interviews intended to provide insights into how the collaboration between B&O and AAU had developed. The purpose was to create new knowledge that would hopefully benefit other collaborations between university and industry.
03/10/2016 → 04/07/2017
Associate professor Anja Overgaard Thomassen
Department of Culture and Learning
Tlf. 9940 7469