Industry-university engagement

What we do


Howard Partners has established a strong capability for research, analysis and advice in relation to the ways in which universities and businesses work together in a regional and national innovation systems context. This covers research, teaching and activities in relation to the broader roles of universities.


Our prior research and experience in universities indicates that knowledge is not transferred either seamlessly or easily between universities and businesses. Whilst the 'merchandising' of knowledge through sale and licensing of Intellectual Property has an important role, as do informal web based networking through 'knowledge exchanges', by far the most important form of engagement is through institutional arrangements - including centres for teaching and research, partnerships and joint ventures.


Our interest is in providing advice on the development of institutional arrangements that best suit the needs and requirements of business and universities.


Projects and assignments


Translation of Research for Economic and Social Benefit Measures that facilitate transfer of knowledge from publicly funded research organisations to industry, Australian Council of the Learned Academies, Canberra, December 2015

This study describes a range of measures that contribute to the translation of public sector research in Australia. This covers measures to increase engagement between public sector researchers and other sectors, intellectual property databases, measure taken by State and Territory governments, university initiated measures to increase research student interaction with potential users of university research.

Summary information is provided in relation to the rationale for the measure, the outcome(s), operational information, administrative responsibility and cost, and indicators, measures of success and/or evaluations where available.

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'Digital Steel' - the Steel Industry Research Mapping Project, February 2013, The Department of Innovation, Industry, Science Research and Tertiary Education.

The project required the preparation of a 'map' of research and development capability in universities and research organisations that could be relevant to the Australian steel fabrication industry. The project brief premised that access to this capability could improve competitiveness, energy efficiency and overall performance.

The report identified a very limited level of capability due largely to the absence of specific funding for relevant and applicable research.  The report put forward a number of options for supporting capability development and providing access.

The research involved over 100 interviews, discussions and conversations with people in universities, research organisations, professional associations and institutes, intermediary organisations and steel fabrication businesses. This was supported by background research and reference to primary source documents.

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The Role of Intermediaries in Support of Innovation, Department of Innovation Industry Science and Research, April 2007

The research assesses the role of and benefits created by intermediaries in the Australian innovation system. The main focus of the study was to understand the way in which intermediaries assisted companies in accessing knowledge and technologies available in universities, research organisations and other businesses.

The study draws on an analysis of the activities and performance results of two pilot programs. In addition, the study undertook a review of the literature on intermediaries, both in Australia and overseas, and took into account international experience with intermediaries.

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CSIRO: Partnering for the Future

Paper published in Innovation Management Policy and Practice, 9. 2007

Abstract: CSIRO was established in 1949 to provide research for industry and government to enhance Australia’s economic development and international competitiveness. Over a period of almost 60 years CSIRO has undergone a process of evolution and change. A substantial proportion of the organisation’s research revenue is now derived from external sources and there is a greater

commitment to partnering and collaboration with other public research agencies, universities, industry and government. More recently CSIRO has adopted a much greater strategic focus in nine key areas of research through the Flagships Program.

The research programme focus of the collaboration through cooperative research centres has given way to a more project oriented approach through specific and targeted collaborations and joint ventures. These changes are restating the role and focus of CSIRO in Australia’s national innovation system.

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Fire Knowledge Network Report, Canberra: Bushfire CRC. 2006.

The Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre sought advice for a strategy to establish a fire knowledge network.  The strategy involved building capability for the transfer and translation of knowledge between theory and practice.

The study demonstrated the importance of the human factor in knowledge transfer as well as the technological, visual and multi-media dimensions. The report's recommendations are in the process of being implemented.

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Great Expectations: Developing "Instruments for Engagement" in University, Business, Government and Community Relations

Paper prepared for the conference on Innovation Systems and the New Role of Universities. Bristol. 2011

Cooperation and collaboration between universities, business, government and the community is a major plank in innovation systems thinking. There is an expectation that stronger interactions and relationships will lead to improved productivity, performance, and competitiveness at the firm, regional and national levels.


Assumptions about the operation of innovation systems usually draw on transactional connections, such as IP commercialisation processes and collaborative research. Much attention is given to the roles and responsibilities of Technology Transfer Offices. This paper will argue that innovation system performance is enhanced through a progressive movement from transactional arrangements (the buying and selling of knowledge) to partnership arrangements built on trust and commitment.


There is a vast difference between the way innovation systems are described, and the way they operate in formal and even semi-formal ways. While most attention in the literature on triple helix type interactions is given to connections at the faculty and academic level, the reality is that relationships take time to develop, are underpinned and supported at the senior executive level, and must address business issues such as cost, risk and return.

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The paper was an iteration of an earlier presentation, From Transactions to Partnerships in National Innovation Systems: A Triple Helix Perspective, given at  Triple Helix VII, Glasgow. 2009. View Power-point Presentation


Universities Third Mission: Community Engagement, B-HERT Position Paper 11, Melbourne, B-HERT (with Arun Sharma). 2006

The Business/Industry/Higher Education Collaboration Council (BIHECC) asked DEST to commission this Report as part of the Council's broader agenda to address issues relevant to collaboration between higher education and business/industry.

The Paper addresses Community Engagement in the context of Australian Government interest in developing strategies to support universities and industry working together in engagement activities

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Report on Knowledge Exchange Networks, Department of Education, Science and Training, 2005

The Report defines knowledge exchange networks d as structured intermediary mechanisms for users to locate, exchange and acquire knowledge in a systematic way, with a view to development of new products, processes and services. They may be virtual/electronic or actual/physical communities of interest, public or private, free or subscription based.

The Report concludes that the most effective networks, in terms of the transfer of knowledge from the creators of knowledge (research providers) to industry users are those that are sponsored and supported by industry diectly or through industry associations. Industry sponsored and supported research and development networks, which most  effectively utilise industry and government supported research and development corporations, have been important to Australian economic and industrial development in the animal and plant production sectors.

The mining industry has demonstrated the benefits of knowledge exchange and collaboration through the Australian Minerals Industry Research Association (AMIRA) and the wine industry has demonstrated similar benefits through knowledge a cluster that creates and shares product related knowledge through the Wine Research Institute.

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The Emerging Business of Knowledge Transfer, Department of Education, Science and Training, 2005

The Study proposes a framework for identifying, tracking and understanding the economic contribution of universities and research organisations. It emphasises the plurality and the complexity of the channels and mechanisms through which universities and research organisations generate economic benefits and aims to enhance the understanding of research commercialisation and knowledge transfer processes.

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Study of the Interactions Between Research Organisations SMEs in the ICT Sector, Canberra: Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. 2004.

The Study found that in general there is limited innovation oriented interaction between research organisations and ICT SMEs.  There is, however, a huge opportunity to increase the level of interaction, but in order to do so significant institutional as well as cultural constraints need to be overcome.   Australian universities are moving slowly from the Newman model of disinterested scholarship to institutions that are effectively engaged with industry, their surrounding regions, and society.   Many argue that the pace of change needs to be faster, but the processes of adjustment are both difficult and challenging.

Creation of more effective relationships and arrangements between research organisations and ICT SMEs will need to accommodate differences in mission, cultures and personal motivations; these differences are not easily reconcilable. The Study points to the need to create effective “Institutions of Engagement” that can bridge the cultural divide and establish communication between universities, research organisations, and ICT SMEs.  These institutions, whilst reflecting market based, organisation based and community based structures, must contain people who have the capacity to bring parties together to achieve intended outcomes sought through effective personal interactions.


Business, Higher Education and Innovation: Institutions for Engagement in a Mode 2 Society, Triple Helix 5, 2004 Turin, Italy. 2004.

Paper Abstract: The role and significance of higher education and publicly funded research institutions in the knowledge economy is well appreciated. Their role has often been interpreted in terms of knowledge production, with institutions sometimes perceived as ‘knowledge factories’ creating and selling intellectual products. This role is captured in the concept of ‘research commercialisation’.

The paper argues for a broader approach to addressing knowledge transfer built around concepts of communicative interaction. It suggests that transfer processes also need to comprehend diffusion, relationship and engagement processes.

Finally the paper suggests that the role of higher education and public research organisations might be more appropriately comprehended in terms of their role as service organisations – where the value of their output is in the service provided rather than in the intellectual products themselves. This has implications for the way in which economic performance is measured and assessed.

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Business, Higher Education and Innovation: Institutions for Engagement in a Mode 2 Society

 Thesis submitted in fulfillment of requirements for PhD. The University of Sydney. 2004.

The thesis explores the nature and extent of interactions between higher education institutions and industry in the production and utilisation of industrially relevant knowledge. These relationships are explored in the context of the institutional development of the higher education sector as it goes through a process of industrialisation, and in the changing way in which businesses access, acquire, and utilise knowledge in the management of their innovation processes.

The thesis argues that relationships between higher education and industry are themselves institutionally driven, and the concept of a mode 2 society can be best understood in this institutional context. These institutions are evidenced in organisations that are formed at the interface between higher education institutions and businesses, and in markets for knowledge. The way in which knowledge is shared in a community setting is, it is argued, also institutionally driven and reflected in knowledge communities.

It is the development and operation of these institutions of engagement that give effect to the emergence and development of a mode 2 society. A focus on institutions of engagement also identifies the importance of capacity and capability building in the management of knowledge organisations (for example, cooperative research centres), intermediaries in the market for knowledge (for example, early stage venture capital investors) and leadership in knowledge communities. These issues also suggest new directions and approaches to public policy in promotion and support for the knowledge economy.

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Evaluation of the Cooperative Research Centres Program, Canberra: Department of Education, Science and Training, 2003.

The Evaluation reported that CRCs have performed a vitally important role in transforming publicly funded discoveries and inventions into products and businesses that are “investment ready”.

A major challenge for current and potential CRCs is locating and connecting with companies prepared to be involved in the development and adoption of disruptive technologies. Venture capital seed investors are performing an important role by assisting with the creation and building of new “start-up” businesses based on these technologies. The shortage of seed and pre-seed funds is, however, a matter of major


The changes in structural conditions referred to in the report provide a clear indication of how the Programme can be strengthened in the future. The Evaluation Team has no reservation about recommending that the Programme continue, albeit with modifications to objectives, design features and implementation arrangements. These changes will result in a more targeted and effective arrangement for industrial research collaborations and CRCs based on creating businesses through the commercialisation of discoveries and inventions in universities and public research organisations.

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Engagement in an Era of Industrialisation.

Chapter in Bjarnason, S. & Coldstream, P. (eds.) The Idea of Engagement: Universities in Society. London: Association of Commonwealth Universities (with Ron Johnston). 2003

Pressures of competition, from existing and new higher education providers, and the demands of the knowledge economy, a challenge has been identified for universities: that of maintaining and renewing the largely unwritten social charter between universities collectively and the larger society.

The chapter argues that the provision to universities of public funds, a significant, if somewhat diminished, level of autonomy, and high standing creates an an expectation not only of the delivery of quality learning, accredited professionals, reliable knowledge, and innovation, but also of a larger role in developing economically sound and equitable futures for the supporting society.

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The Feasibility and Efficacy of Commercialising Research Outcomes from Australian Research Council Funded Research.

Canberra: Howard Partners. 2001


Mapping the Nature And Extent Of Business-University Interaction In Australia, Australian Research Council, February 2001

The paper examines the nature of interactions between business and university research in Australia from a business and management perspective. The paper discusses the importance of realising the benefits through engagement with business.

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A Study of Government R&D Expenditure by Sector and Technology

A Paper prepared for the Department of Industry, Science and Resources. Canberra: Howard Partners (with Mark Matthews). 2000.

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Audit and Review of Science, Technology and Innovation Infrastructure in Victoria

Department of State and Regional Development, Melbourne,. 2000. Audit available on request.





Since 1998 Howard Partners has been providing  independent public policy research and advice, and management consulting services to Government, Research Organisations, and NGOs.


Howard Partners was honoured to have contributed to the Innovation and Science Australia Strategic Plan, Australia 2030: Prosperity Though Innovation, released in early 2018. Our Consultations Report and Expert Opinion Survey was released at the same time.


In 2019 Howard Partners completed the first ever comprehensive Performance Review of the Rural Innovation System for the  National Primary Industries Research and Innovation Committee.


A comprehensive analysis of  Challenges for Australian Research and Innovation was released as a UTS Occasional Paper in May 2020.



Dr John Howard

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