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Education and Industry cooperation brings profits for all

A necessary prerequisite for any modern country’s economic growth is the ability of its domestic businesses to successfully compete on the global market. That ability is fundamentally rooted in innovations. But innovations don’t spring up on their own. Certain requirements must be met to facilitate their creation. If we look at the issue chronologically, then the first and foremost of these requirements is education. Both theoretical and practical/applied, quality, cultivated education is indeed the foundation and a necessary part of growth and development in sectors that are indispensable to innovations. Sectors that can be summarized in three terms: science, research and development.

Industry and higher education

e need for state support

If a country wants to establish itself on the global market, it must invest in and give support to science, research and development. Fortunately, the Czech Republic provides such accommodation and currently there are 48 research centers headquartered here. These centers’ foci lie in various areas, from mechanical engineering to nanomaterials and membrane processes to chemistry.

Scientific research is indisputably beneficial for everyone. Successful chemistry research is crucial for advancements in modern medical, construction and mechanical engineering industries, whether for car manufacturing or the production of household appliances. And since scientific research plays such a vital role in everyday life, a country’s own first-rate scientific sphere is of paramount interest.

Science, development and innovations typically begin with unique perspectives on traditional realities. If we accept this statement as true, it would then be unwise, even irresponsible to not utilize the opportunity for collaboration between research centers and higher education institutions. Such collaboration, if it is effective, brings advantages and benefits to both parties involved as well as expediting and advancing the quality of research and development activities in the future.

An inspirational look abroad

Let’s stop over in the United States for a moment, a country where higher education is one of the costliest financial investments. In 2016, the yearly cost of education here was as high as 80% of the average annual income. The US educational system incorporates a grant and scholarship program. If a student is clever and successful, this system can offer them financial assistance. Additionally, there is the possibility of working with a renowned company in the form of an internship. In the best case a paid one.

Such an internship, whether paid or unpaid, is highly desired. It can lead to an interesting job offer after graduation and it certainly looks very good on a resume. Other forms of cooperation exist as well, such as the work-study program, where one semester is spent studying and the other one working. We don’t mean to dissect the American education system here; our purpose is to show that combining education and work experience in the same field has been utilized for many years, with undeniably mutually valuable results.

At home we are on the right track

The financial pressures attached to education in the Czech Republic are not nearly as great as in the USA; nevertheless, cooperation between businesses and students undoubtedly brings the same kinds of benefits. Students have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the practical aspect of their field of study, employers have the chance to meet potential future employees and both sides have the option to make informed, well thought-out decisions.

“Science is done by the young. Young scientists bring new ideas, know about new information resource opportunities, are willing to travel and work as part of a team,” says doc. Ing. Jaromír Lederer, chairman of the board of directors of the educational research and development center UniCre. “And schools most definitely need industry. They need to acquire impulses and objectives from industry; they need to know strategic industry plans so that education doesn’t head in a different direction than industry is going. For schools, industry actually acts as a field of realization- a place where they get impulses, personal contacts and, at the end of the day, money.

I would say that the most valuable, perhaps the most critical, are the day to day contacts that are formed. For us, it’s good to know who we can turn to when we are facing a predicament.

Mutual Benefits

The valuable outcome from such cooperation undeniably serves multiple purposes. Research centers gain future employees with fresh ideas and approaches to solving existing problems. Students, on the other hand, get high quality, practical education that they can apply on the job market. And both sides create invaluable contacts for the future.

Even the general public doesn’t come up short when these two spheres work together. The state obtains a source of capable and thoroughly educated scientists and workers, as well as research centers with a pioneering and innovative approach. Such a combination perfectly supports a country’s overall progress and development.

Exemplary collaboration between VŠCHT and UniCRE

One of the most successful collaborations of this kind exists between Unipetrol’s educational research center UniCRE and The College of Chemistry and Technology (VŠCHT).

In February 2015, VŠCHT’s work space moved into a reconstructed space inside Unipetrol’s Chempark Záluží. This means that the college is able to offer its students not only placement on industrial premises, but an active role in the educational research center UniCRE’s activities as well.

Jiří Hájek, the innovation division director at UniCRE conveyed this about the collaboration: “From the perspective of students who participate in solving commercial projects, they primarily see value in being able to use the knowledge they acquire from their studies in real life applications. Students are confronted with real life industry needs and have the opportunity to gain real insight about the implications of the completed work, and, in some cases, they are even responsible for delivered results. Such collaboration strengthens the student’s intrinsic motivation to present high quality, reliable outcomes. On the other hand, the research center and the industrial concern gain fresh ideas, new perspectives and novel approaches to solving problems.

Incorporation of secondary schools

“UniCRE is also invested in the educational development of secondary school students. In this context, college students facilitate a certain communication spectrum/interface, where on one end there are secondary school students, who function in a dynamic technological environment and on the other hand there are innovators from employee ranks, who often perceive the realities of the modern world through the lens of a parent. Because I know from my own experience, how difficult it is to bring these two worlds closer together, especially in the time of adolescence, I view college students’ participation in younger students’ educational projects as very beneficial,” Hájek continues.

The collaboration between business and higher education presented in this article is by no means the only one of its kind; still it is fundamentally important for our future. With than in mind, we sincerely hope that such partnerships will become even more pervasive going forward. Wishing the best of luck!