7 keys to diversify your partners – Partnership research beyond the industry-research couple (2/2)
Find the first part of the article here: Our experience with The Future Of programs – Partnership research beyond the industry-research couple (1/2).
I tell the story of our flagship program, The Future Of.
With 13 programs of this type, we can now share our experience and above all, our know-how!
First of all, it is important to know the objectives of your diversification of partners. There are different formats depending on your objective: whether you want to create inspiration, meetings or collaborations. If you want to strengthen ties within an existing community, or create new connections from scratch.
However, if you want to:
- Diversify your research and innovation partners
- Align innovation with the challenges of sustainable development
- Obtain concrete and measurable results
Here are 7 tips to follow:
Before the meeting of actors
1. Frame the subject
2. Set up a steering committee
3. Ensure the diversity of expertise
Preparing the ground is your biggest challenge.
As you have understood: the framing of the subject is crucial. You must speak to each of your targets (and there are many of them!) with terms that they understand. To have words that speak to everyone, we set up a committee at the start of each program. This committee brings together representatives of the communities we want to bring together. We guide them to define the challenge of the program. They are extremely valuable since they have both thematic expertise, and also the culture of their sector. The words they choose to define the challenge will bring the right participants to the table.
Setting up such a committee is very valuable: choice of the issue, selection of participants, we regularly involve this committee in the first phases of the program. It is also a body that can mobilize public authorities. In our TFO Plastic Waste program, implemented as part of the DiDEM program coordinated by the IRD, the committee involves representatives of three Ministries in Seychelles. This highlights emerging collaborations with public authorities. Thanks to this, public power is then invested in the solutions that are created.
Once the problem is well defined, applications begin to flow. The choice of participants is a key moment to ensure diversity. We have developed a tool and a process for this purpose. We follow the distribution of the selected candidates live and we do 2 selection sessions. At the end of the first session, we have a clear vision of the typologies that are underrepresented. Are there enough associations? Are there enough researchers? Etc. We then do specific research to ensure a balanced representation in the final group of participants.
During the meeting
4. Implement appropriate tools
5. Adopt an egalitarian posture beyond “inclusion”
We have developed many tools and dedicated programming to ensure that the meeting of participants leads to concrete collaborations. As diverse as these tools are, there is one big principle that we always follow. This principle is that everyone is an expert. It is possible to be an expert in fluid mechanics, in a certain technology or in the operation of an industrial process, but it is also possible to be an expert in societal issues, or an expert in one’s own experience, territory, etc. Our days are built to put everyone on the same level. There is no stage. There are not the knowledgeable and the others. Everyone has something to learn from each other. Without this principle, there will be no collaborations, just one-way information transfer.
After the meeting
6. Organize a follow-up
7. Go up in skills
No successful collaboration without a real post-meeting follow-up! It is absolutely necessary to dedicate human time to the structuring of partnerships if you want them to last. Contracts, IP, NDA, but also alignment of actors, alignement on vocabulary, logistical support, provision of opportunities. The work is far from stopping at the meeting!
Fortunately, when the ground has been well prepared, the actors of the collaborations are ready to invest themselves despite the (inevitable) unforeseen events. Having a common objective, having met and having discussed plans for future action before talking about annoying subjects helps to unite the consortia. This is necessary in a field that is not yet marked out: multi-actor research / industry / civil society collaboration.
It is therefore also essential to build internal skills on the knowledge of these new audiences and actors of innovation in order to be able to act as translators, an essential skill in the structure.
It is therefore also essential to build internal skills on the knowledge of these new audiences and actors of innovation in order to be able to act as translators, an essential skill in the structuring of consortia. In this, the learning work that takes place during the production of The Future Of is precious.
Are you interested in these practices? Watch my live of May 2022, 23 on the topic
These main principles are not just a way of condensing our learning. We are also convinced that our methodology must strictly follow major principles, while being widely adaptable. This makes it possible to better respond to the various strategic challenges of our partners. Alexandre Bisquerra notes that this is one of the “strong points of the TFO”: “the ability of SoScience and the methodology to adapt to our strategic challenges, while keeping key elements such as the diversity of actors.”
The flexibility of the format made it possible to launch, depending on the subject, programs on a global challenge or on a territorial issue. The TFO Plastic Waste program focuses on responses to territorial issues. The public authorities are associated with the committee and the solutions are very specific to a geographical context. The TFO One Health program, on the other hand, deals with a global issue by nature: pandemics. That of COVID-19 has forced us to digitize our entire methodology. It is now an advantage. On TFO One Health, this allows us to bring together a great diversity of actors around the globe: 20% Latin America, 30% Sub-Saharan Africa, 10% Southeast Asia.
Thus the continuous improvement of the programs is also co-constructed with our partners: “We were able to work with you to develop the methodology on the different editions according to our strategic needs.” tells us Alexandre Bisquerra.
SoScience is an expert in the creation of hybrid consortia, after more than ten editions on various subjects, in partnership with both industrialists and research institutes. This skill becomes necessary to meet the challenges of transition. We will continue to disseminate our know-how through feedback formats such as this article or our newsletter. You can use this information to create your own programs. And if it’s the TFO programs and all their engineering that interests you, know that we train ambassadors in the methodology!