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A mutual collaboration model for improved impact of research

Publication Type:

Conference/Workshop Paper


University-Industry Interaction Conference 2017


Cooperation, both over company boundaries and together with academia, is indispensable for Swedish industry’s ability to be competitive. Therefore, cooperation is crucial and models that help measure the impact of cooperation are highly interesting to the parties involved.Really close collaboration takes lots of time to build. It is our experience, that it will never (or seldom) arise from high-level agreements or political statements. We want to find out the mechanisms for successful collaboration and want to start with a case study on one of our deepest and broadest relationships – the one between Mälardalen University (MDH) and Volvo Construction Equipment (VCE). From what we can see, and from our experience this is a unique collaboration. MDH collaborates with many other companies and VCE with many other universities, but our joint collaboration has through the years increased in depth and strength. External research projects has a high priority for Volvo CE; the reasons are several, for example risk-sharing: thanks to these joint research projects Volvo gets the opportunity to try such things that normally lie outside their core activities. Furthermore these joint projects give access to lab and development environments that Volvo CE does not have itself. Thanks to VCE and MDH knowing each other well, the organisations can have long-term plans together, and can share information and share a mutual plan and vision to drive the cooperation forwards.MDH was appointed an Academic Preferred Partner (APP) by Volvo AB year 2013, as one of four Swedish Universities and one of 12 universities globally where MDH is a Preferred Research Partner. The APP program envisions a long-term cooperative partnership and mutual benefits, and aims at strengthening the competitiveness of both parties and drive progress in areas of common interest.The partnership is focussed on the research directions Embedded systems (ES) and on Innovation and Product Realisation (IPR). MDH and VCE have deep collaboration in both areas, with for example approximately 15 active industrial PhD students, which represent half of the Industrial PhD students associated with VCE, and a portfolio of some twenty research projects. The portfolio in Embedded Systems predominantly represent collaboration in pre-development (research) and electronic systems, while the collaboration with IPR is with product development. There are many personal links between people in the organisations; many researchers at VCE are alumni from MDH. This has helped the take up of new research projects. Many times the initiative for new research projects are proposed by MDH researchers, and accepted by VCE when aligned with company strategies. The role of MDH is often to have outlook for fitting calls for research funding, and to propose new projects. Often, MDH also has further academic and industrial contacts that can be fruitful in the collaboration. The researchers from MDH will formulate the research questions, while the researchers from VCE will point out the business cases and strategic plans that are relevant for the research in question.VCE has a strategy to go from initial and tentative, shorter collaborations, with low investments and low cost, to longer collaborations and higher investments when collaboration has deepened and the mutual trust has grown. From the university perspective, it has been important to build on the relationships that have been built up with alumina from the PhD education. Bit by bit the organisations have increased the collaboration that started with master-thesis assignments, continued with singular industrial PhD students until the full strategic partnership was envisioned. Today, VCE and MDH have a joint portfolio of 18 research projects and many researchers and industrial PhD students involved in the collaboration. The topic of this paper is to find out how collaboration between VCE and MDH was performed during the last two decades, to find out how it can be repeated. Which are the mechanisms? Which are the policies? What is the history? How can this be repeated? Is there a feasible strategy that can be followed? We will interview people who have been part of this journey, both managers and PhD students. We will also verify and analyse key figures from the joint projects that have been conducted during the last two decades. The objective is to find out if there are any generalizable experiences in this, that can be shared. We hope that the attitude of our organisations can be adopted by and transferred to other organisations in Europe, so that also the beneficial experience can be spread. Through a better understanding of our joint history, we might also be able to further develop our collaboration.


author = {Gunnar Widforss and Malin Rosqvist and Peter Wallin},
title = {A mutual collaboration model for improved impact of research},
month = {June},
year = {2017},
booktitle = {University-Industry Interaction Conference 2017},
url = {}