Universities more than ever need strong financial support to stay relevant and secure their future
The pressure of the federal government’s planned cuts on the Australian university system is old news. However, I often wonder if we’ve truly grasped the full impact of what this means; and whether we’ve taken measures to cushion its effect.
With these planned budget cuts, the higher education sector will collectively lose $1.16 billion in base funding. The impact will be felt more in disadvantaged communities, where universities are smaller and don’t have the same assets.
Larger universities can survive the reduced funding from the government, but this will mean that the burden will be shared with students. They may have to pay more tuition without any assurance that their learning experience will be better, or if they’ll gain the skills to become job-ready.
In addition, the government is also planning to change their funding model, wherein if a university fails to meet the government’s benchmark, they’ll have fewer funds for innovation, making it more difficult to improve their employability outcomes.
To ensure that the Australian higher education sector is set up for success with reduced government funding, I believe the focus for universities should be on developing commercial engagements.
My belief stems from previous research and efforts developed by other universities. Jachimowicz and Umali mentioned that commercial engagements are ‘a balancing act in which everyone has a shot at winning.’
‘Industry gets needed research, universities get funding, society gets new products and technology.’
I completely agree with their statement because we’ve experienced the benefits of these partnerships with our clients.
In Australia, the top eight universities are benefitting from commercial engagements. The Group of Eight will partner with the London-based IP Group PLC to receive a $200 million funding pool. According to The Guardian, the funds will be ‘available to researchers who want to commercialise their ideas into spin-off companies and startups.’
There’s no magic formula that’ll instantly turn a university into an industry partner magnet. However, a good place to start is developing a CRM solution for managing engagements with commercial businesses.
I appreciate that investing in technology amidst pending budget cuts may feel counterintuitive. But most organisations miss funding opportunities due to siloed processes or misplacing process, contact, and relationship breakdowns when key staff leave or take on new positions..
An end-to-end CRM platform solution can work more effectively in the hands of someone who understands how industry partnerships work. That is why I suggest that universities work with entrepreneurs in residence (EIR).
Their role is to seek out and propose innovative technologies, partnership opportunities, and business models to organisations. They can assist in streamlining the details of a university’s commercial engagement campaigns. But even then to make effective use of their skills and experiences, they still need an end-to-end CRM platform solution that can help them monitor and manage interactions with potential partners.
Over the years, I’ve developed a checklist that I have found useful when helping universities assess their Commercial Engagement Success:
- I always start by asking my clients, what are your agreed strategies and processes to describe your commercial engagements? (e.g. how do you define leads, opportunities, methods of tracking this data, etc.)
- What are the key funding sources you are targeting?
- Are the skills, roles and responsibilities of your commercial engagement team clearly defined? Does your team have redundancies and hand over documents for managing the partnership?
- Does your university have a system for managing and storing partnership agreement documents and key milestones?
- If an industry partner needs to work with several departments, do they have similar processes in managing commercial agreements?
If you were not able to answer all of the above and need more insights on effective higher education-industry partnerships, feel free to get in touch here.
If you want to see how we’ve helped our clients set up successful commercial engagement platforms, check out these case studies.