University-Industry Collaboration (Part 2)
31 Jan 2008

University-Industry Collaboration (Part 2)

Yesterday, I talked about all the good

31 Jan 2008

Yesterday, I talked about all the good things that are said to be brought by university-industry collaboration. There is, however, other side of this seemingly almighty strategy.

Well, “other side” might be a bit too exaggerating. But there are some things we have to keep in our mind when we discuss university-industry collaboration. What I am going to talk about below applies not only to Japan but also to any countries in which university-industry collaboration takes place.

I say, it is necessary for us to consider possible dangers and negative outcomes in university-industry collaboration.

First of all, universities should consider that industrial interest which mainly focuses on near-market research and the aim of producing profit should not become the only priority of university at the expense of long-term orientation and basic research. In other words, money-generating research should not be always prioritized over fundamental or unprofitable research. This could put the fundamental philosophy of academic freedom in danger. There is also a danger that industrial requirements may jeopardize university’s initiative in building research themes. This is because private sectors place the utmost interest in making profits, and not necessarily purely academic intellectual exploration. Therefore, projects that are funded by private sectors may end up compromising universities’ academic agenda in order to comply with industry’s requests.

That is to say, university-industry collaboration has the inherent danger of allowing market criteria to dictate the paths of scientific inquiry.

When all is said, I would like to recommend a strategy to mitigate the possible dangers from university-industry collaboration.

First, it is crucial for universities to balance between innovation/technology-orientated research, and fundamental academic research and teaching. In other words, curricula should not favor only those studies with industrial cooperation. For instance, those disciplines that do not have much industrial needs, such as English, Philosophy, and Japanese literature, should be treated as equal as industry-related disciplines such as biochemistry, biotechnology, and aerospace-engineering.

Additionally, I suggest that Japanese universities introduce multiple major system which allows students to major more than one field of study or have minor. Though multiple majors are common in the U.S. , such systems are extremely rare in Japanese higher education. I think completing more than one major will provide students an advantage in today’s uncertain job market.

I know that university-industry collaboration brings many benefits to the society. Instead of completely agreeing with the idea, however, I just wanted to play devil’s advocate 🙂

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