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Academic Transfer with Sustainable Impact

© DAAD Cairo/ Elphotographatia

On Wednesday, September 27th, 2023, the DAAD Regional Office Cairo organised within the framework of the project “Clusters of Scientific Innovation in the Middle East and North Africa” (COSIMENA) and in cooperation with Technische Universität Berlin at the Ain Shams Innovation Hub (i-Hub) a workshop under the theme ‘Academic Transfer with Sustainable Impact’.

With the presence of researchers and scientists across various fields residing in Egypt who have an interest in transfer, transdisciplinarity, and entrepreneurship, the workshop aimed to address the role of academic transfer in sustainable transformation and explore the sustainable impact of such transfers.

The event began with welcoming words and introductions. Dr Carsten-Michael Walbiner, Director of the DAAD Regional Office Cairo, highlighted the challenges of turning discoveries into market-ready solutions and stressed the importance of harnessing young minds to find solutions. He praised i-Hub as a ‘hub for innovative solutions,’ emphasizing the significant gap that exists between “theory and practice.” Dr Walbiner expressed his concern about the challenges in Egypt, particularly those related to the environment and sustainability, stating, “There is indeed a great challenge; making discoveries in the field of science is one thing, bringing them to the market and impacting people’s lives is another challenge.” He further added, “Finding solutions should be by the people themselves,” underlining the importance of community-driven solutions.

Ms. Lorena Mohr, Head of Science and Protocol at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany to Cairo, emphasized the importance of the green economy in securing prosperity for future generations and expressed motivation by the ideas presented during the workshop. She remarked, “Green Economy unites economics and ecology: an economy must be internationally competitive but must also be environmentally friendly and socially acceptable. A Green Economy enhances social welfare, combats poverty, and strives for social justice.”

Being the main trainer of the workshop, Prof. Dr Jan Kratzer, Chair of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management and Academic Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CfE) at Technische Universität Berlin, Germany, gave an opening word expressing commitment to supporting sustainability at Ain Shams University and the significance of academic transfer in business markets.

During the workshop, Prof. Dr Kratzer highlighted the central role of academic transfer, noting that universities are essentially engaged in transfer activities within the framework of their business models. This transfer encompasses various aspects, including the education of students, the dissemination of scientific knowledge through publications, and the promotion of transdisciplinarity within academic institutions.

Prof. Dr Kratzer also shed light on Berlin’s reputation as a startup hub in Europe, attributing its success to the presence of a youthful demographic and more favorable conditions for launching startups compared to other European countries.

Within the context of the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE), Prof. Dr Kratzer mentioned ongoing research projects and the operation of incubators designed to collaborate with students in refining their entrepreneurial ideas. Notably, he clarified that universities typically do not seek ownership stakes or act as direct investors in these startups, as such arrangements can be complex.

In terms of education, Prof. Dr Kratzer introduced specialized programs in sustainable entrepreneurship, which encompass micro-credentials such as ‘Sustainable Entrepreneurship’ and ‘Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship.’ These programs are tailored to specific fields of study, such as chemistry and engineering.

During the workshop’s group work session on ‘Academic Transfer’ participants played the role of university presidents and developed transfer strategies. Some participants attempted to develop general transfer strategies. Others focused on specific specializations and industries, such as water management.

During the workshop, participants shared their perspectives on academic transfer strategies. In this regard, Menna Ragab,  a participant in the workshop stressed the importance of a two-pronged approach, stating, “We will build our strategy on 2 pillars which are the students and the knowledge whereby students know how to apply knowledge in the industry and become active calibers in sustainable industries,” Dr Islam Siaad, another participant of the workshop, emphasized the initial steps, stating, “First step is to collect industrial pioneers’ thoughts and insights to be integrated and met by the curriculums set by the university council.” He also advocated for the recruitment of professional academic staff and the establishment of industrial centres where students can find employment opportunities, much like the case at i-HUB.

Highlighting the need for collaboration between university and industry representatives, Dr. Marwa Adel, one of the participants, asserted, “In order to meet the sustainable market needs, academic transfer should occur through university representatives meeting with industry representatives to develop the objectives and implementation steps of the transfer accordingly”.

In the same manner, Prof. Dr Mohamed Ahmed stressed the importance of aligning academic transfer action plans with institutional priorities, while Dr Imaan Gomaa outlined their mission to upgrade academic standards and vision to become the best in academic transfers.

During the workshop, insightful topics of  ‘Educational quality, curricular adaptation, national and international exchange, and infrastructure,’ ‘Entrepreneurship support and sustainability funds’ and ‘Specialization-based strategies and the positive impact of transdisciplinarity on sustainability’ were raised in a session entitled “Developing a Transfer Strategy”. The second trainer, Ms. Anne Bamberg, a Project Associate at Technische Universität Berlin, stressed that academic institutions primarily produce transfer in various forms, including students, knowledge, publications, patents, licenses, and startups. She also discussed the measurement of sustainability and its regional dependencies.

The workshop concluded with reflections on sustainability, academic transfer, and the role of universities in addressing employability challenges. Prof. Dr Mohamed Ahmed, one of the participants, questioned how sustainability could be measured effectively, and Prof. Dr Kratzer explained the various methods to predict a company’s sustainability impact.

Asst. Prof. Amany Ramzy raised concerns about employability despite the expansion of universities, and Prof. Sabine Müller, emphasized the importance of adapting knowledge to local market needs to ensure sustainability in industries, particularly in engineering.

The event received valuable feedback from the participants, highlighting the importance of collaborative efforts to promote sustainable academic transfer. As the workshop came to a close, it became clear that fostering sustainable academic transfer is a complex but crucial endeavor that requires strategic planning, interdisciplinary collaboration, and alignment with market needs to drive sustainable innovation in various industries.

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