Javier Calles (from Argentina), Geoffrey Gregson (from UK-Canada) and Ruttachuk Rungsiwiwut (from Thailand) benefited from Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways. They told us what makes this grant different from others, and gave their reactions to whether the opportunity has boosted their industry-academia credentials.
About our Fellows
Javier Calles’ project is called “3D-NET”. A European network of industry and academic partners exchange knowledge, people and expertise to enhance the discovery and development of drugs that target more effective treatments to halt or reverse eye diseases leading to blindness.
Geoffrey Gregson’s project “Eco-business” sought the scientific, technological and business knowledge necessary to devise innovative techniques for the design and development of the first Multi-Agent Digital Business Ecosystem (MADBE). The system is designed for use by European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Ruttachuk Rungsiwiwut worked on the project “Comparative embryonic stem cells research in mammalians” which involved differentiation of human embryonic stem cells into neuronal lineages under two- and three- dimensional culture conditions.
What are Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways (IAPP)?
The Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways (IAPP) are open to experienced researchers (at the time of recruitment and secondment) as well as to early-stage researchers (at the time of secondment).
The action aims to enhance industry-academia cooperation in terms of research training, career development and knowledge sharing, in particular with SMEs, and including traditional manufacturing industries.
Projects must involve one participant from academia and one from industry. Those participants have to come from at least two different EU countries and/or Associated countries.
Projects are classified into: chemistry, economic sciences, information science and engineering, environment and geosciences, life sciences, mathematics, physics, social sciences and humanities.
What did our Fellows learn?
How did they get info about IAPP?
Interested in learning more about European culture, Rungsiwiwut heard about Marie Curie programmes during his first stay in Hungary, when he was working under the supervision of Professor Andras Dinnyes, a Hungarian researcher with expertise in cloning and stem cell research. “I am personally interested in European culture and also wanted to travel and work in Europe,” he says. After having completed his Ph.D, our Fellow received an invitation from his supervisor to continue working with him thanks to an IAPP.
Gregson was also contacted by his industry partner and was already aware of the Marie Curie opportunities.
Calles simply discovered Marie Curie scholarships when surfing the Internet!
At which point in their career did they apply?
Two of our Fellows, Calles and Rungsiwiwut, were finishing their Ph.Ds when they started working on their project, whereas Gregson obtained this grant five years after having completed his Ph.D “I was an early to mid-career academic,” he says.
How did they choose their host organisation and country?
Our Fellows selected their host organisations and countries for different reasons. Rungsiwiwut already knew his supervisor, whereas Gregson’s university already had experience of working with the industry partner. “I was interested in working across disciplines,” he explains. Calles chose his research group because of the lines of research it was following.
How did they prepare their application?
Calles was lucky enough to complete his application in around a week, while the process was much longer for our two other Fellows. “The application lasted approximately 12-14 months, from the time we scoped out the project to when the contract was finally signed between the parties,” says Gregson. Rungsiwiwut explains: “Due to the project proposal being related to the use of human embryonic stem cells, it had to be strictly reviewed by the Institutional Review Board Committee of Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University. Thus, it took more than six months to prepare the application.”
How did they organise their work?
IAPP projects have a few particularities, as they gather partners from industry and academia. According to Rungsiwiwut, it is essential that the industrial partner clarifies some aspects at the beginning of the project: “The most important thing for me is a clear communication with the industrial partner prior to starting to work together. Some information could be confidential for the industrial partner, so, knowing how much knowledge sharing is acceptable allows us to avoid excessive interference.” Gregson echoes this sentiment: “IAPP projects are very much focused on knowledge transfer between the academy and the industry partner”.
Nevertheless, be prepared to adapt your plans should you encounter problems along the way: “Some modifications were made due to changing circumstances as the project progressed,” Gregson explains.
For Calles, the organisation process has been quite smooth: “We have a well established network between academia and industry. Some industry partners provide us new drugs and we test them in our in-vitro models.”
What obstacles did they encounter?
According to Gregson, the IAPP can be difficult to comprehend “The first obstacle was related to understanding the nature of the IAPP process, and various project and reporting requirements, which were somewhat different than other European projects in which we participated.”
He mentions other obstacles in understanding the requirements for university researchers in terms of relocation expenses and salaries. “A final challenge related to the commercial viability of the industry partner in seeing the project through to completion. Our partner, MicroArt, was a small, highly innovative company that unfortunately struggled in its market towards the end of the project. This resulted in the final phases of the project not being completed,” he says regretfully.
Did the funding cover all their needs?
Rungsiwiwut and Calles are happy to confirm that the IPAA covered all their needs, whereas the funding was a bit tight according to Gregson: “One factor of difficulty was related to the currency exchange between Pounds Sterling and the Euro as well as differing salary scales for researchers with different levels of experience,” he explains. “There was little funding to support the Principal Investigator either, so this might not provide much incentive for some universities to become involved in such projects,” he muses.
Is it worth it?
For Rungsiwiwut, benefiting from an IAPP was fruitful: “IAPP really boosted my career in two respects. Firstly, it opened up my vision to other grant opportunities in Europe. These opportunities are not only beneficial for myself, but also benefit my students and staff. Secondly, I received good recognition from my institute and also from Thai researchers.” According to Gregson: “The IAPP provided valuable experience in managing knowledge transfer projects and collaborations between academic and industry partners.” Calles is still working on his project but he is confident that this opportunity will help his career.