From CEBR Shared Facilities meeting May 23rd, 2012 Barcelona
The challenge of promoting facilities for international collaboration occurs at institute/company and at regional or national level.
The meeting Barcelona focussed on good practice for promotion that suits the nature of the organisation and its mission for external use of its resources. It looked closely at institute level and also regional level.
1. Promotion at organisation level - casestudy University College London
UCL is a high profile University and it has the typical challenges of a university facility in external promotion and partnerships.
- Evolving a long term research institute of talented self-managing individuals into an entity that can provide better external collaborations
- Managing ability of departments to respond in a professional manner
- Collaboration rather than competition between departments
- Engaging staff to feel ownership of collaborations and thus create happy customers
- Managing access to facilities and technologies overall - how you do this globally
The primary audience and market for UCL is other university partners, although they also delivered several signficant private projects in recent months. There is no overall promotion campaign for the facilities - it is done through individual departments and websites and knowing the right people to engage for each collaboration.
The facility is not suitable for a 'professional' branding - the academic quality of the organisation is a key message and this is done on a low level through word of mouth and inclusion in publications. The external contracts came through good reports on the outcomes of other collaborations.
A high profile branding was considered less important than the fundamental quality of the organisation - particularly as a university is NOT a dedicated CRO, it could mislead potential clients. The most suitable methods of valuable promotion were agreed as:
- Frequent reporting on successful collaborations - benefits beyond publication
- Lists of projects undertaken with external partners
- Higher profile listing of facilities in publications
- Regular newsletters to a wider community
- Lists of projects in which facilities have been used
2. Promotion at regional level - casestudy Facilis projects
The Facilis project was run with the intention to promote SME access to shared facilities and the work done by the Noord Brabant Development Agency was discussed.
The core activity in the project was to stimulate SME interest and participation and this was achieved extremely effectively through the use of low cost vouchers (€6000) for use in facilities outside the region. SMEs were targeted directly through a central contact point in each region and assisted in identifying a technology challenge and the research facility that could solve this. The company and facility submitted a very short joint application and the €6000 was approved.
- Getting SMEs to look at research facilities as solutions for challenges
- Adapting the facility system to cope with smaller, faster projects
- Creating long term value from collaborations
- The use of a small sum of money is a big promotional tool, even it if only covers a small % of the final cost
- The use of an expert contact within the region is key to contact SMEs and engage their interest
- Likewise, the same expert can be the bridge into the facilities as well - the link between 2 often very different cultures
This availability of a small voucher to spend was the central promotional tool for this and was extremely effective - there are many ways that voucher 'value' could be created that minimises direct spend and the economic activity that was subsequently generated greatly outweighed the initial investment. the team behind Facilis has evolved the offer for the follow up project and now has a sliding scale of vouchers from €500, to get SMEs introduced to facilities before the voucher value rises for actual work.
3. Promotion at European level - Casestudy Tools of Science
Tools of Science is a programme that started in Sweden, before being replicated at a European level through the ABCEurope project. The online platform lists facilities that meet criteria such as english websites, professional standard of collaboration etc. and have facilities from 12 regions in Europe listed.
- Making the platform 'sticky', so that it is used frequently by facilities and SMEs and a logical place to go
- Doing this without significant cost - it must be a natural meeting place for organasiations
- Enabling participating regions to promote the platform as an integral part of their work
- Centralise all regional activities through the Tools of Science platform
- Associate the platform with major conferences - become a multiplier in return for platform exposure at meetings
- Create activities that are delivered through Tools of Science e.g. virtual matchmaking, webinars, development of a voucher scheme
- Design projects for future funding that engage the regions within Tools of Science
The platform has received major project investment and it is now for the participants to use their time to keep it alive and mobilised