Book Review - Adam Jolly, "Working with Universities"

In "Working with Universities", Adam Jolly has produced a very accessible and comprehensive "How To" guide.

Among other esteemed colleagues, Innovate UK’s Dr Debbie Buckley-Golder, HEFCE's Alice Frost, NCUB’s David Docherty, Scottish Enterprise’s Bill Corr and PraxisUnico's former chairman Douglas Robertson contributed to the contents and the resulting book is broad in scope yet thorough in detail.

Assuming no prior knowledge, the reader is taken through the university landscape, mechanisms for engagement and funding models. This provides a good grounding in the various methods and their respective advantages offered to businesses open to engaging with universities.

The book shares valuable insights and experiences of working with universities that, if taken on board, can potentially smooth the way for businesses to operate with universities based on a greater understanding of the institutional set-ups and stakeholders, avoiding false assumptions before they arise.

There is the tendency to think that academic and commercial priorities should not differ when it comes to knowledge transfer - indeed, universities are a professional service bringing knowledge into the market - but in essence, reconciling those priorities is what knowledge transfer practitioners do.

Universities have a wider raison d'être than purely commercial entities; as charitable bodies they are judged on delivering impact and return on investment in a variety of ways, including but not limited to financial, social and environmental. As such, one section explains the assumptions which underlie most universities' approaches to confidentiality, intellectual property and guarantees, advising businesses to set appropriate expectations: "Rather than seeing [these assumptions] as sharp negotiating , as you might in a more straightforward commercial setting, see them as a reflection of the university's overall mission."

The book does a great job in addressing many such areas that have the potential to cause false assumptions or misconceptions, and eloquently establishes a foundation for positive engagement through better understanding. Businesses are made fully aware of the various processes and methods by which university expertise and value can be successfully tapped, and can then decide which is the most appropriate route for their requirements.

The book is supplemented with a comprehensive catalogue of University profiles and accompanying case studies. While in the realms of policy-makers the onus seems to be on pushing universities to seek business engagement, one can only hope such books as these encourage more overtures to originate from the business side.

This review refers to the edition published by Crimson Publishing on 7 Nov 2014,  ISBN-10: 1780591365 / ISBN-13: 978-1780591360.