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COSINUS (Conference on Systems of Innovation and the New role of Universities) 2018, co-organised by Dr Surja Datta and Dr Sola Adesola, both from the Department of Business & Management, and hosted by the Business School, Oxford Brookes University, was a great success. This international conference, fifth in the series, attracted delegates from England, Sweden, India, Morocco, Algeria, Canada, Brazil, Ireland, Scotland and Greece. The conference provided a platform to academics, young researchers, and practitioners for an inter-disciplinary discussion focusing on the theme of the conference “University-Industry Interactions –challenges and opportunities in a time of turbulence”.
The conference was structured around keynote speeches, panel discussions and parallel sessions. The format was designed to generate lots of interesting research conversations and the feedback of the delegates confirms that this was indeed the case. One of the highlights of the conference was the first keynote speech delivered by Professor John Bessant, from Exeter University, who is a world-renowned innovation scholar with many bestselling books to his credit. Professor Bessant, in his talk, underlined the importance of networks in the innovation process. His brilliant keynote speech provided the best possible start to the conference.
Professor Mohammed Saad, the founder of the COSINUS network, delivered the second keynote speech, which focused on the role of universities in national innovation system in the developing countries. Professor Saad emphasised the importance of the teaching role of the universities in the context of building effective university-industry linkages. The final keynote speech by Professor Norman Clark from Open University was presented in absentia by Dr Adesola on the status of innovation in Africa’s development strategy and the positioning of science and technology.
The three panel discussions generated a lot of free-flowing ideas and viewpoints. The first panel discussion, moderated by Dr Datta, focused on the theme of the conference: University-Government-Industry interactions in a time of turbulence. The panelists shared their interesting perspectives on the role of university within the national innovation system and how that is likely to be impacted by recent events like the EU Referendum in Britain and the US Presidential election in the United States. Professor Bessant emphasised the need for universities to steer away from the Linear Model of innovation with its undue reliance of basic science. Both Professor Bessant and Professor Saad suggested that the teaching role is often undervalued, but it serves an important function within the national innovation system. Dr Rozana Himaz, who is an economist, provided a historical perspective on government funding of research and pointed out that the current uncertainties are not unprecedented if one takes the long view. Mr Karl Kjelstrup-Johnson, an entrepreneur who also teaches in the university’s Faculty of Technology, Design and Engineering, shared his experiences of developing deeper interlinkages between the university and the industry.
The second panel discussion, moderated by Dr Sola Adesola focused on the myth or reality of entrepreneurial university. The panelists shared their diverse perspectives on the meaning of entrepreneurial university. Dr Sara Hannam, who is the head of international partnerships in Oxford Brookes University, highlighted the need for an entrepreneurial culture within university staff to develop strong university-industry linkages. Dr Nicolette Michels, who is the MBA Programme Director in Oxford Brookes, underlined the importance of appropriate organisational structure and enabling environment for sustainable collaboration between university and industry. Professor Lars Jonsson, the Chief Executive Officer at Uppsala University Holding Company, Uppsala University, shared his experiences of commercialisation of university research. Dr Ann Torres, who is the Vice Dean of Internationalisation at the College of Business, Public Policy & Law, National University of Ireland, emphasised the need to focus on impact that universities make on the society and pointed out that this stretches beyond mere commercialisation of research. Dr Adesola, whose research interests include entrepreneurship education, successfully summarised the discussion by highlighting the main issues that emerged from the panel discussion.
The third panel discussion, moderated by Dr Joanna Karmowska focused on how SMEs (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) can effectively collaborate with universities. Dr Karmowska, whose research interests include SMEs and their internationalisation processes, successfully brought into the discussion some key theoretical insights from the academic literature. Mr David Hartley, who is the Commercial and Knowledge Exchange Director in Oxford Brookes University, highlighted some of the initiatives that the university has undertaken to develop deeper linkages with SMEs in the region. Mr Peter Russell, who has his own consultancy practice, provided the SME perspective. He underlined the differences in work culture that exist between SMEs and universities and suggested that they constitute a real barrier to effective collaboration.
Many thought-provoking and stimulating conference papers were presented over two days in the three scheduled parallel sessions. The delegates appreciated the generous time allocated for each presentation and the subsequent Q&A session. The fact that the sessions regularly ran over their allocated time only indicates the volume of interesting debates and discussions that they generated.
In the final session, the Chair of the Scientific Committee, Professor Mohammed Saad outlined the ambitious publication plan that the organisers of the conference have following from the conference. Potential publications include an edited volume and special issues in two journals. The proceedings were brought to a close with the announcement of the next COSINUS Conference, which is likely to be held in Marrakesh, Morocco.
As Professor Juliette Koning, Research Lead of the Department of Business and Management, pointed out in her welcoming remarks to the delegates, the hosting of COSINUS 2018 underlines the vibrant research culture that prevails within the Business School. Conference fees for COSINUS 2018 were waived off to maximise participation from developing countries and this was made possible by the award of a grant application to the Co-Organisers of the conference under the Brookes Business School Internal Small Grants Scheme.
The Co-Organisers of the conference, Dr Adesola and Dr Datta, acknowledged the invaluable support received from Professor Simonetta Manfredi, Associate Dean, Research & Knowledge Exchange, throughout the planning and implementation stages of the conference. They also appreciated the administrative and marketing support provided by Dr Jonathan Louw, Jenny Heaton, Teresa Floyd, the Learning Technologist Team and PhD researchers (Chris Harlow, Usman Alkali, Pearl Akomas, Anthony Spio and Deji Makinde).