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Why Should We Collaborate Across Sectors?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to engage with others in new ways we never could have anticipated. Collaboration among professionals has been propelled forward, particularly in the digital sphere. In February of 2020, a group was formed to bring experts together in search of a cure for the coronavirus using Slack, a professional messaging platform. This ensured quicker access to information amongst researchers for remote co-creation. Once the genome of the COVID-19 virus was sequenced, it was made readily available for researchers across the globe to access, thus spurring further progress at rates not seen before. 

So, all is well and good with industry and academic pursuits, but what happens when we want to achieve further trans-sectoral collaboration? This article discusses the importance of collaboration, and introduces the concept behind why we fear collaboration.

Why should we collaborate?

Collaboration is so incredibly important. Very few organizations have the know-how and internal capacity to achieve the ultimate results. Academic initiatives require technology transfer to initiate and implement research-based solutions into applicable potential. Industry requires expertise and know-how. We need to drive the two together.

Collaboration is simply essential in this day and age.

Societal, economic, and environmental challenges have goals that need to be met. At Knowco Collabwith, our aim is to bridge the divide between entities and further enhance an engagement platform to see ideas come to fruition with a push in the right direction. 

From the perspective of academia, according to Sciencemag, scientific communication has persistently been slow. Academics opt to sit on data, afraid of competition snagging and utilizing the information to their advantage. Upon acceptance into a peer-reviewed journal, collaboration is then able to proceed. Even then, there aren’t many platforms with which to share information. Another issue with collaboration within academia stems from lack of negative or no result discussion. Failure is not readily and openly shown. Recent initiatives have provided platforms to open the discussion on these issues. Regardless, many end up in the same stalemate because of lack of communication.

Ipilimumab, used to treat cancers such as melanoma, would be considered to be a trans-sectoral, collaborative success. One thing to keep in mind in its development is its slow progression into the market. 15 years from its inception, it finally was made available to the public. Why did it take so long to be made available? Simple – lack of clarity, communication, and goals did not align because of differences in the culture of industry vs. academia. More can be read on the topic here

Why do we fear collaboration?

Collaboration with external sources elicits fear. As mentioned before, we’re afraid of someone running with our ideas and monetizing off it without acknowledgement of our efforts. We fear what we cannot control. Our inability to control the actions of others means we cannot anticipate the outcome. Are our ideas safe?

To share ideas means to be vulnerable and empathetic with others, which requires trust. This opens the opportunity for criticism, too. We’re not very good at taking criticism. It is a developed skill and requires high emotional intelligence. You can read more on how to effectively manage that here

If the work environment does not promote comfort and ease, we aren’t as willing to speak up. In order for collaboration to be truly effective, every voice needs to be heard in discussion. We need to talk.

Finally, there is the issue where professionals in academia may be poached from one sector to another due to monetary incentive. The World Economic Forum highlights this as a particular issue that can be foregone by promoting on-site laboratories and workspaces with both an academic- and industry-oriented approach. We need to develop corporate partnerships that allow for flexible scheduling between the two, without losing academics along the way. 

What next?

We’ve evaluated the need to promote collaboration despite the fear, but what are some ways to begin implementing and harnessing the information provided? In the next article titled ‘Tips to Enhance Collaboration’, we will provide tips on how to overcome these collaborative challenges. Stay tuned!

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