Geospatial academia-industry collaboration
Courtesy: Sciencemag

For any nation seeking to make innovation the core of its development agenda, collaboration between academia and industry is imperative. Some even call it a game-changer for a country’s economic future. And the government has a central role to play in this process through policy interventions and innovative funding programs.

Noticing that research innovations are not able to make it to the market due to lack of entrepreneurship and financial support, universities have started hosting incubation centers within their campuses — majorly with the help of government’s financial aid. On the other hand, large enterprises face the challenge of coming up with new products from scratch in the face of limited R&D resources, organizational bureaucracy and profitability fears. They need to leverage the startup ecosystem for innovative ideas and products.

In such a scenario, it is essential to come up with an industry engagement model that would improve the effectiveness of collaboration between businesses and researchers, and ensure sustainable commercial outcomes in the process. Geospatial World Forum 2017 brought together academia and industry to share their thoughts and experience on the best engagement model. Read on to know more…

Geospatial academia industry collaborationPointing out that Esri India Academia Council is working in this direction by serving as a platform that facilitates interaction between academic institutions and industry to strengthen existing GIS courses, Rajesh C. Mathur, Advisor, Esri India, says, “Though GIS is getting embedded into several business processes and workflows, there are many challenges that need to be overcome before a sustainable model is attained.”

Business processes and workflows will need to be re-engineered. Ready availability of geospatial content through an enabling policy framework and collaboration between various departments needs to be ensured. “There is also a need for GIS awareness among decision makers. And let’s not forget that the availability of high-caliber technical manpower is not very steady in the country,” Mathur points out, underlining the strong need for academia-industry collaboration for HR capacity building.

Geospatial academia industry collaborationMeanwhile, Venkatesh Raghavan, President, OSGeo, takes pride in OSGeo’s outreach project called Geo For All, which aims at establishing research and teaching opportunities in ‘Open Geospatial Science’. “We are building a global open access teaching and research infrastructure, providing worldwide learning platforms and training opportunities, and establish collaborations between academia, government and industry around Open Geospatial Science and education,” explains Raghavan, who is also a professor of Geoinformatics at Osaka City University, Japan. As a part of the outreach program, 114 labs have been established worldwide till January 2017.

Geospatial academia industry collaborationFocusing on commercialization of satellite earth observation products and services, Han Wensink, Chairman, Netherlands Value Adding Services Companies (NEVASCO), outlines his strategy for creating an innovation ecosystem and building business. Wensink is of the opinion that if concentration and efforts are limited to a handful of high potential markets — food security, energy, urban development, security and safety — it would be easier to organize the EO industry toward academia and its stakeholders. “The industry would be able to create together with academia long-term sustainable consortia to organize funding and develop new products and services,” he says.

When it comes to business development, Wensink advises organizing the EO industry for businesses to access and serve the bigger markets on a day-to-day basis (also with non-EO and geospatial companies). “We should develop and operate on a commercial basis a service infrastructure/platform to provide integrated solutions to the selected markets efficiently,” he tells, adding, “Develop a home market first. Make the Government your launching customer, and then start joint [export] activities business, joint PR, joint marketing and joint sales.”