Prof. Grindrod

What MNC’s are looking for Collaboration with Universities with Prof. Peter Grindrod

Eduvoice exclusive interview

Prof. Peter Grindrod

  • Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, England.
  • He is active in developing research partnerships between academic and commercial interests, and in deriving value from knowledge and research via Innovation and Knowledge Exchange.
  • He is an internationally known expert on digital transformation, data science, and behavioral analytics.

introduction

We are part of a competitive world, and there are spaces where a lot is expected these days from a student, whether its academic excellence or being extremely skillful. Talking about the varied approaches made by companies to collaborate with universities on a global level, is something to ponder upon. 

Discussing the future prospects of collaborations with MNCs and the fundamentals of Data Science and Mathematics, we have with us, Prof. Peter Grindrod CBE. Prof. Grindrod is a Mathematics Professor at Oxford University. 

Here Prof. Peter Grindrod talks about the scope of university-corporate collaborations, digital media and businesses, and how budding entrepreneurs should step into the market.

Sujata Mehta

We have witnessed unemployment lately due to the ongoing health crisis. I would like to know what are the companies expecting from universities, not in terms of value proposals but based on developed countries or developing countries or students? 

Prof. Peter Grindrod

I think it is quite hard for most people within universities to put themselves in the shoes of the people within the companies. The company leaders and managers desire to research that is based on the urgency and the depth of ambition of their plans of action. They do not have the luxury of time. We in universities need to have a very clear perspective: why should companies work with us? The companies actually need to collaborate on R&D that they cannot easily do themselves, or even do at all; and that they cannot justify to their own shareholders, perhaps because it is too risky, too long-term, requiring a range of skills they do not have, or requiring an existing track record and some momentum. They are also seeking disruption and talent.

Prof. Grindrod

Corporates think about their collaborations based on the idea of “open innovation networking”, which is a completely different approach from the old, closed, “everything in-house” style of secret development. And open innovation networking means that they must engage directly with universities and other companies who might do things that they themselves cannot – so that they have some real options for their future activity.  

The companies may also wish to collaborate with universities because of their access to public research funding. The role of public money should really be to enable upstream research that the companies cannot easily justify to themselves, but that might be highly disruptive. 

The academic fraternity needs to understand how companies plan and carry out disruptive research, and ask why would companies reach in and partner with us? There are very many good reasons for them to do so, as I have illustrated.

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Get latest updates about our Exclusive Interviews, News, Articles on Higher Education Sector.

      
      

    Sujata Mehta

    What are the different approaches that the companies are incorporating when it comes to problem-solving in the universities?

    Prof. Peter Grindrod

    If anything “lethal”, highly disruptive, even happens within the universities, then of course companies will look into it. However usually when a company decides to collaborate with a university they will have a very clear idea of what are they looking for.  

    In problem-solving, companies usually wish to resolve a problem in a time span of 6 months, or maybe let’s say 3 months, whereas the universities are stuck trying to resolve problems on a 3-year timescale (equal the length of a post-doc or a Ph.D. project). Exceptions are those companies that have long term development plans: say for next-generation jet engines or drug discovery, and so on. In general though, corporate timescales are shortening, and especially within the digital economy where I work.

    problem-solving approach

    A year is a very long time in digital. So we have to overcome that mismatch. One way to do so is to hire post-docs long term (over years) and allow them some  freedom, for maybe half of their time, to be researching in their own fields of interest so as to become independent researchers; while also asking them to become involved in a string of short “sprints” or “fail fast” projects with the corporate partner for the other half of their time. This works well.

    Sujata Mehta

    Talking about Oxford university’s research projects what is the ratio of Government and MNCs Funded Projects?

    Prof. Peter Grindrod

    Oxford particularly is a massive entity in itself, and the major collaborations made by us have been with larger corporates mostly and they have lasted for a long period. The programmes which lasted the longest are projects based on biomedical science, engineering, etc. But as I said time-scales are much shorted with the digital, fast-growing, sectors that are critical for national economies – especially post-pandemic.

    Universities need to manage those corporate partners that are large and diverse. Beyond the present particular engagement, we should guarantee that the partner will be networked into all possible parts of the university and that the university will become networked into all parts of the company. And there must be a strategic conversation at the highest possible level, outlasting any particular present project.

    Sujata Mehta

    We have been witnessing the startups growing rapidly, and there are budding entrepreneurs all around. So when companies collaborate with universities, do you believe that they should assist these budding startups on the go?

    Prof. Peter Grindrod

    It is good that universities and their collaborating organizations provide funding to these start-ups, especially those started by our graduating students. But it’s never easy to start companies from nothing, it requires a lot of passion, time, and commitment. I have done it when I was outside of academia.

    Prof. Grindrod

    So when people have started companies and are at a very early stage, they lack knowledge, experience: but on the other hand can they think outside of the box? They are often overly optimistic and underestimate their need for listening, networking, and business development. I do think it is very important to enable students to run start-ups: actually, I think there should be funding available to people even before they crystallize their own business venture. Why not invest in 100 students per year, hold a competition,  and award them a one-year bursary, as a salary? After ten years you will have supported 1000 people, each of whom wants to cross the chasm from graduate to entrepreneur. What if every large university did that?

    If I talk about India, I think that in planning for success, a little more risk might be taken to invest in visionary and radical people (and their ideas); people who are passionate and determined enough to be successful, but who have a solid background of academic achievement.

    Sujata Mehta

    Paying emphasis on incorporating new curriculums, what according to you are the companies expecting when they are looking forward to collaborating with universities based on their academic infrastructure?

    Prof. Peter Grindrod

    Firstly, I believe that courses such as MBAs that are based on data science, artificial intelligence, and various 21st-century digital agendas or digital transformations, dwell far too much on the details (the functional details of the what and how of machine learning, for example; or learning about mean, median, and mode),  instead of focusing at a much higher level on how one should harness data science, and how to lead data scientists. 

    Leadership and vision are the keys. I myself,  as a mathematician, I cannot “drive” a computer but I do know how to get the best from those who can. This detailed focus is a common error and it also pervades the way that data science is dealt with in the military and civil service. There seems to be a mad belief that anybody could get the best out of data science and AI ventures as a leader. This is itself a skill and it requires some close attention. You cannot “luck-in” to it.

    Prof. Grindrod

    Secondly, applied mathematics turns out to be a good option because of its rigorous underpinnings. The courses are a little slow to evolve but I think that graduates can deliver great outcomes. Here at Oxford, many maths students are opting for network science and related courses, for example. So if the data science training is put together along with applied mathematics then that can work in everybody’s favor, and it will be popular with the industry.

    Sujata Mehta

    What do you think of Eduvoice as an initiative?

    Prof. Peter Grindrod

    It’s a great endeavor, I believe if initiatives like yours instill better ideas to improve the teaching and learning system. If your idea is to bring a positive change in the education sector, then I think Eduvoice is doing a really good job. 

    Prof. Grindrod has enlightened us with various possible opportunities that might nurture the growth of budding industries shortly. If the idea that Prof. Grindrod believes in is executed wisely, then surely it will benefit the academic growth of the university as well as the student. 

    For More Such Articles, News Update, Events, and Many More Click Here

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.