Building links to innovate

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By Hélio Lemes Costa Júnior

Some years ago, I visited a number of educational institutions, research and innovation funding in the province of British Columbia, Canada. For almost a month I was greeted and guided by people involved in technology transfer between universities and business and learned a lot about the practices of those who are doing very well with Innovation.

That Canadian region, whose largest city is Vancouver and has Victoria which its capital, features (saved the appropriate differences in proportions) characteristics similar to Silicon Valley in California – which is only two hours flight time in South direction: good institutions for teaching and research, many high-tech companies – derived from these institutions and the availability of venture capital to finance innovation. Some people I met define themselves as residents of Silicon Valley North.

One of the mechanisms of transfer of technology present in four of the universities I visited is called UILO – University-Industry Liaison Office. I emphasize here the word Liaison, which according to The American Heritage Dictionary, means “a close relationship, connection or link.” The concept is interesting because such instances the university does not promote research and encourage innovation directly but promote the “encounter”.

Open innovation assumes the existence of links between those who produce science, technology, and those who produce and finance all this. The link or channel for the connection is a very concept in conversations with teachers, students, managers of investment funds and angel investors who attend the offices seeking approach each other and find the best arrangements to perform innovation.

Another institution with similar objectives to uilos and that caught my attention due to its features to connect people and institutions is the Westlink Innovation Network Ltd.

Among its members are the visits and many other universities in the Western region of Canada. The promotion of innovation is through the connection, or the date that occurs in a number of programs and services.

One program is aimed at teaching the management of technology transfer, which trains specialists to work in uilos and functions as an exchange program in which the expert, after an initial course on the subject, participate in an internship program in which, every six months, working on a UILO in one of Westlink member universities. So at the end of two years, the professional qualified and met the best practices for managing intellectual property and related in at least four institutions of teaching and research, bringing knowledge and expertise from an organization to another.

Whereas not all institutions are at the same level of maturity in their processes, this exchange serves not only to form high-level specialists with experience in plural environments, but also to flow the knowledge between organizations and individuals by promoting divergent thinking and opening the innovation process.

At the end of the visit, which was guided by these experts in their exchange at Simon Fraser University, the highlights were in memory are collaboration, skill development, meetings and connections, filling gaps and accelerating the innovation process. Unfortunately the Westlink, as well as several North American companies and institutions, did not survive the 2008 financial crisis. However, during its existence, fulfill its mission to train skilled professionals to handle innovation and mature UILO offices of universities, spreading ideas, methods and concepts of innovation.

Hélio Lemes Costa Jr.- Teacher, writer, researcher and geek. Investigates about technology, innovation and people. Associate professor of the Institute of Applied Social Sciences, Federal University of Alfenas in Varginha, MG campus. Doctor and Master in Production Engineering graduate in Computer Science and Management.

Note: until May will be available for purchase in bookstores and for Kindle version, the book “Innovation Management: A Case Study in Canada,” of my own, that brings this and other information about the practices of innovation in that country.

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