In today’s competitive economic environmental, the need of being open and staying connected with the eco-system actors has become crucial for firms’ performance especially for science-intensive companies (Chesbrough, & Eichenholz, 2013; Hung & Chou, 2013) , . Particularly, collaboration with Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) has proved itself as an instrument for companies’ generating radical innovations – products/services that are novel to the market (Belderbos et. al., 2014) . However, several barriers like differences in organizational culture and internal characteristics keep the business-academia collaboration particularly challenging (Galán‐Muros & Plewa, 2016).

On the other side, HEIs in Europe are operating in an increasingly competitive environment where they need to cater to diverse stakeholders. Research evaluation increasingly considers the impact of HEIs research outside academia. Thus, the HEIs are increasingly expected to develop links with the business community. At the same time, SMEs need to improve their skills and knowledge base to develop their innovation capabilities and improve their competitiveness. HEIs seek links with large businesses for reasons of prestige and possibly access to funding. Hence, the links between HEIs and SMEs have been side-lined although they can be beneficial to both sides (Piterou & Birch, 2014).

On the top, Employability is emerging as a key concern in Higher Education policy (Pedagogy for Employability Group 2012). It is suggested that the development of stronger industry links can enable HEIs to improve the employability of their graduates. However, it has been identified by Karlsson, et.al., 2007 that academics working with SMEs face hindrances within existing structures. Increased collaboration between SMEs and HEIs can help foster the innovative potential of SMEs and at the same time enable HEIs to improve the employment prospects of their graduates.

In many publications going back to EU’s first network of innovative projects (Eurotecnet) Ziarati (Chair of C4FF, and Eurotecnet Director of Factories of the Future Project) in 1994 suggested that business-academia collaboration could help SMEs to enhance their capacity to innovate and become more competitive (EU’s People and Technology conference, UK, 1995). The need to develop an online space for academia-business collaboration has been acknowledged globally and on an EU level (Debackere et. al., 2014) , and now, at the age of interconnectivity, it’s time to turn an idea of such a platform into reality. 

Project Objectives

The project aims to create an effective framework to support business-academia collaboration with several tools and services which will allow companies to launch innovation challenges to the HEIs so the students can contribute with their ideas. By bringing businesses and HEIs together, European companies can benefit by accessing cutting-edge research, high-tech infrastructure and highly skilled people, while universities will get an opportunity to develop their applied research and demonstrate the impact of their work.

Technological Objectives

– Creating a new methodology for enabling systematic business-academia collaboration to support the innovation processes.

– Designing and developing a cloud-based collaboration platform that will implement as services the concepts arisen in UniBus methodology.

– Design and development of Grading framework that will provide guidelines on how will the HEI assess and give credit for students’ work carried out on the platform and how will companies assess the ideas/solutions proposed by students.

– Assessing and validating the methodology and platform with participating HEIs and partner SMEs. The UniBus partner SMEs will present business scenarios, which will deal with different views of innovation within any organization: Innovation for Management Improvement, Innovation for Product Improvement/Creation etc. During the assessment, different pre-defined indicators will be captured to quantify results.

Business Objectives

– Defining 5 business challenges (BCs) at each SME (a total of 20 BCs will be proposed). Each BC will set the focus on different areas of the value chain, identifying specific business objectives to achieve using UniBus methodology and platform. The fulfilment of these objectives will be measured by means of specific indicators.

– Supporting the innovation processes in SMEs anywhere within the value chain.

Socio – Economic Objectives

– Generating awareness about the importance of business-academia collaboration in the actual socioeconomic context in 100 SMEs and HEIs directly related to the organisations participating in the project.

Every HEI in Europe have their own unique practices to collaborate with business. Therefore, it is important to carry out UniBus transnationally to avoid any bias in the project outputs.

Project Outputs

Output 1: Concept and Requirements Specification for UniBus

Output 2: UniBus Methodology

Output 3: UniBus Grading Framework

Output 4: UniBus Cloud Platform

Output 5: UniBus Mobile Application

Output 6: Pilot Testing

Output 7: User Guides /Support Material