Director of Fraunhofer ISI at the university policy dialogue in Vienna

June 05, 2018

Professor Marion A. Weissenberger-Eibl, director of the Fraunhofer ISI and Chair for Innovation and Technology Management iTM at KIT, represented these institutes in Vienna as a member of the podium group discussing “Knowledge and technology transfer from ideas to markets” as part of the dialogue on university policy.

The university policy dialogue on the topic “Universities of Technology and Industry: strong partners, challenging competition – achieving more together“ was a joint event hosted by the Association of Industries and the TU Austria (Austrian Universities of Technology) and took place on 4 June 2018 in Vienna. Representatives from academia and industry discussed cooperation possibilities to safeguard the innovation chain in Austria. Among other topics, the focus was on what Austria needs as an excellent location for knowledge and innovation, what role important actors such as universities and companies can play, and how they can achieve joint value added.

For the topic “Knowledge and technology transfer from ideas to markets“, the podium group comprised Prof. Marion A. Weissenberger-Eibl (head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI and professor for Innovation and Technology Management iTM at the Institute of Entrepreneurship, Technology Management and Innovation ENTECHNON at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT), Prof. Sabine Seidler (rector of the University of Vienna), Dr. Stefan Poledna (Executive Board Member at TTTech), Kurt Koleznik (Secretary General of the Austrian Association of all Austrian Universities of Applied Sciences) and Dr. Johannes Hom (CEO of Lithoz GmbH).

Prof. Marion A. Weissenberger-Eibl described how innovations are formed. A culture of creativity and imagination is vital for innovations to emerge. As well as intelligent people to provide the ideas, the right environment is necessary for ideas to become reality. This requires the pooling of knowledge from different disciplines as well as the courage to embrace and try out the unusual. She also mentioned mission orientation as another important factor for innovations: Companies need a clear vision of why they want to innovate. A potential goal is tackling the so-called “Grand Challenges”, such as climate change, for example. Last but not least, according to Prof. Weissenberger-Eibl, networks of different actors who consider the same problem from different perspectives are important for the emergence of real innovations: “Perhaps the individual approaches of the actors involved are not sufficient in isolation – but combining them can create something new. Or academia and practitioners have to interact to clarify the practical requirements and actual feasibility. We need a systemic process for successful innovations”.

Certain framework conditions are required for success, not just for the individual company or research institution, but also for Austria as a whole as a location for knowledge and innovation. The innovation researcher talked here about providing scope for experimentation to enable the creativity, mission orientation and networking described above, establishing highly effective innovation networks with actors from academia and industry, and policy and administration providing support in a non-bureaucratic way.

For knowledge and technology transfer to function from university research results to the market, all the instruments of knowledge and technology transfer must be anchored in a university’s daily routines, says Prof. Weissenberger-Eibl. “If universities regard companies as research and teaching partners, they can benefit at every level: Relevant practical issues find their way to the university, and external know-how can be integrated at an early stage of knowledge acquisition. As well as the additional expertise coming from companies, this also results in the immediate consideration of later possible applications. These kinds of cooperations also help universities to match their curricula to the needs of the job market, which means they can show their graduates improved career prospects. Such job prospects attract the best students who in turn then foster excellence in research in the long term. Once knowledge and technology transfer has been initiated and become an integral part of a university’s daily routines, it can evolve on its own”.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI analyzes the origins and impacts of innovations. We research the short- and long-term developments of innovation processes and the impacts of new technologies and services on society. On this basis, we are able to provide our clients from industry, politics and science with recommendations for action and perspectives for key decisions. Our expertise is founded on our scientific competence as well as an interdisciplinary and systemic research approach.