EURAXIND is a Horizon 2020 project that aims to increase industry and research collaboration opportunities, as well as mobility between academia and non-academic sectors. It can be considered a ‘EURAXESS for Industry’. Svetlana Dimitrova (Project Manager) and three members of the researcher panel, Margaux Kersschot, Fernando Josa Prado and Lawrence David Finger, tell us about the project and the academic context that is driving it.
WORKING FOR THE ACADEMIA TODAY
The number of PhD students in European universities and research institutes is increasing. This is a good thing – qualified human resources and talented individuals make for a stronger economy. In 2015 there were 5.4 million master’s students and 725 000 doctoral students, echoes Fernando, and the percentage of the population going on to tertiary education in the future is expected to continue growing.
However, the number of academic positions available is not growing as fast as the PhDstudent population.
Fernando refers to the Royal Society’s 2010 report, which pointed out that only around 3.5 % of doctoral candidates were likely to secure a stable job in academia. He pleads for “a renewed strategy for managing the expectations of doctoral candidates”.
STRENGTHENING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ACADEMIA AND INDUSTRY
“On the one hand we have that exponential increase of technology development and use that requires industry to create products that will use those technologies to benefit society,”says Fernando “So industry will need a workforce that understands, creates, develops, improves, manufactures and markets those technologies.” Employees with an adequate level of education will be needed and a closer relationship between academia and industry will favour mutual understanding, according to Fernando.
The relationship between academia and industry is at the heart of the EURAXIND project. “We need to start by changing the perception of researchers that careers outside of academia are somehow a worse option,” says Svetlana “In our recent survey of Alumni, satisfaction levels in these careers were significantly higher than for those still in academia, with only 6 % indicating a preference for returning to academia.”
But how can perceptions be changed? “Relations can be strengthened through joint research projects with business partners and universities, mobility of staff between industries, joint events, a strong valorisation of scientific projects and results to broad audiences and so on,” suggests Margaux.
Universities currently offer PhD holders workshops, seminars and even courses to develop the skills needed by industry, such as management skills, team work, entrepreneurial and financial skills. Lawrence sees one of the main challenges to be getting PhD holders to avail themselves of these training opportunities.
For those who prefer an online option, tools such as the Vitae Researcher Development Framework are available. Svetlana would like to see institutions using similar tools and encourage additional training to prepare researchers for the wider world.
Communication (intercultural, oral, delivering a complex message to a broad audience, visualisation), team work, project management, self-management and effectiveness, leadership and developing your own business are priority areas for skills development according to Margaux. It is then important to transfer these skills from the research context in which they were developed into a new context, which is why these types of skills are often referred to as ‘transferable skills’.
THE EURAXIND PROJECT
The EURAXESS network is a European Commission initiative that supports career development and researchers mobility. It names more than 500 research organisations as members and has 1 100 contact points in 40 European countries.
The EURAXIND project is a network coordinated by Vitae (UK). It aims to strengthen relationships between industry and academia by increasing employer engagement with existing EURAXESS networks with a focus on expertise, practical toolkits, benchmarking surveys and workshops. EURAXIND will provide opportunities for collaboration and strategic partnerships and promote the recruitment of highly skilled researchers into all employment sectors.
The project’s objectives are to:
- identify employers’ and researchers’ needs so as to support intersectoral mobility and collaboration;
- provide online resources to support institutional engagement with employers;
- encourage researchers to consider career and research opportunities within industry;
- attract more employers beyond academia to use EURAXESS services.
The EURAXIND interface will be part of the EURAXESS portal and will offer:
A TOOLKIT FOR RESEARCHERS LOOKING TO EXPLORE OTHER CAREER OPTIONS, INCLUDING:
- information on working outside of academia;
- career stories – 40 stories from individuals who were previously researchers and are now working in other sectors – the stories focus on what they do, how they did it and the advice they would offer;
- labour market information on 15 sectors providing real data for employers about what they can expect, where they might work and what they might do;
- summary of researcher competences by occupation;
- self-reflection tools for individuals to discern what they want from their careers;
- guides to identifying opportunities;
- guides to securing non-academic jobs – interviews, CVs etc.
A TOOLKIT FOR INSTITUTIONS LOOKING FOR WAYS TO PROMOTE COLLABORATION WITH EMPLOYERS, INCLUDING:
joint research with researchers working in business;
work placement schemes;
consultancy work for a business/company;
the commercialisation of research results;
temporary mobility into another sector;
business focused research;
sharing facilities with business;
industrial PhD funded in collaboration with business.
EURAXIND is expected to end in 2018, but the network will remain active. “We will use the outcomes of the project in our everyday work as EURAXESS Contact Points and as EURAXESS Career Development Centres. We are constantly considering expanding and developing our services,” says Svetlana. The team plans further network projects and hopes to tap into organisational and national resources.
This article was first published on the The Marie Curie Alumni Association website.