Kickstarting (regional) innovation networks using research roadmapping (part 1)

I had a positive experience when using research roadmapping to kickstart an innovation network. Before we had one, we had to look into the challenges of a single company one project at a time. Once we had a research roadmap, we also had a pool of both companies and academics motivated to partner up once public funding became available. Today the first part of this blog post. Part two can be found here

The challenge to motivate

roadmap

The major challenge is to motivate participants in the network-to-be. Both academics and companies tend to lose interest if any action I take fails to produce very concrete results. From experience, I have a maximum of three meetings. After three meetings, either proposals to tender for public grants are being developed, or I have lost my key participants. The most important participants leave first. And once they leave, they will not easily come back. They are not motivated to contribute to a project or network they consider to be doing little more than consuming their time. So, I aim for three meeting as a maximum.

Good to know before you start

Strategic roadmaps for research and innovation in Europe exist. Some of the most important ones are those developed by the European Technology Platforms (ETP). Most any societal challenge has an ETP taking care of setting its’ research agenda. The website of the European Commission has a list of ETPs in existence. These roadmaps are used by the European Commission as when to fund specific topics for innovation through the Horizon 2020 programme.

Meeting 1: Host a meeting to inquire after company interest

For IDECAT we invited both companies and academics on catalysis for a first meeting. This meeting is about legality. The participants to the meeting gave us the mandate to do what we wanted to do. At this meeting, we would explain that we wanted to see several large research proposals funded with public budgets. These proposals were to be about building European capacities to meet the challenges in the catalysis sector for the decades to come.

At this meeting we collected company interests, had a number of presentations by some of Europe’s leading academic staff on the latest new developments in catalysis. We made the participants a promise that we would take the action required, and we set an outline for the next two meetings.

Collecting company interests was done by asking which broad topics they felt required attention. At the meeting they requested, for example, solutions for converting smaller alkanes into larger alkanes. We grouped the topics voiced, and asked each company participating to vote on the two most important topics. Our ‘research roadmap’ was an overview of 12 key topics, followed by the number of companies interested. We picked the top two topics to develop proposals. For later use, we kept an internal memo on which company was potentially interested. We kept it internal, for as companies do not always appreciate their challenges being made public.

We set the meeting to take place at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Amsterdam, Paris, and possibly Munich are some of the very few locations with sufficient flight connections. At these locations, it is possible for most anybody to fly in in the morning, have a meeting, and return home in the evening.

To be continued next week…

Interested?

If you plan a roadmapping exercise, I hope this small guide can help you. I take an interest in any questions you may have, and would be happy to answer.

If you allow me, I would be happy to discuss if I may offer my skilled support.

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