Science & Business Roundtable

On Tuesday, the 23rd of May 2017, the DAAD and the German-Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce (AHK) joined forces to kick off COSIMENA’s Economy Cluster with a roundtable on science and business. More than 50 representatives from the DAAD, the AHK, and Egypt’s research and industry sectors came together at the DAAD premises in Cairo to discuss developments and challenges regarding cooperation between academia and the private sector in Egypt.

As the representative of the German Embassy in Egypt, Rauia Toama welcomed the guests and expressed her gratitude to the Egyptian business sector for having taken the initiative to propose this meeting. The roundtable, as she emphasised, should be embraced as an opportunity to foster cooperation among critical stakeholders. COSIMENA and the DAAD could offer a platform for such cooperation, but input from the assembled experts would be crucial, agreed Dr Roman Luckscheiter, head of the DAAD Office Cairo. Andreas Hergenröther, CEO of the German-Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce, joined in remarking that Germany could serve as an example of such successful cooperation, and the AHK could offer its services and expertise on the topic.

The first of the two roundtables of the afternoon tackled cooperation between industry and academia in higher education. Dr Wolf, Assistant Professor at the Technical University of Berlin, introduced the topic by providing insight into the Germany’s experience in TVET. His keynote address emphasised that the introduction of a dual training system is not an endeavour that can be realised through government effort alone, but additionally requires dedication from businesses as well as significant support from society. The young business entrepreneurs who were present agreed that a wider institutional effort must be undertaken to stimulate cooperation as well as to raise students’ awareness for the concept of innovation early on. While the participants agreed that the business sector should become significantly more active in, and take more responsibility for, the education of prospective employees, representatives of the education sector described some fundamental ways in which education programmes have already begun responding to the demands of industry and the economy. Businesses are increasingly involved in setting qualification frameworks and interdisciplinarity has recently emerged as a quality of educational programmes. Still, it seems that major challenges remain for the realisation of dual training programmes, including a societal resistance to vocational training programmes as well as businesses’ fear of the risks involved in investing in students. At the end of the first roundtable, all participants recognised that developing success stories of cooperation between academia and business in the higher education sector is of utmost importance for a holistic remodelling of the system supported by political and societal forces.

Cooperation in research and development constituted the topic of the second roundtable of the afternoon. A short presentation of the Fraunhofer Institute by Dr Mona El-Tobgui, a successful model for cooperation between industry and academia, illustrated the fact that a successful cooperation can only emerge from a working model in which academia supports businesses in their research rather than taking over their tasks. Academia’s role must continue to be scientific innovation, while industry should work on its application. With this distinction of roles, successful partnerships can be built in which businesses provide for commercial success based on the scientific findings generated by academia.

Under Horizon 2020, the EU ran a prototype model to incentivise such collaboration by inviting academia and businesses to propose joint projects for which funding would then be provided. In the specific context of Egypt however, participants of the roundtable remarked that establishment of a framework for cooperation and clarification of the laws surrounding it would be prerequisite to organising joint initiatives. According to experts at the table, the pharmaceutical sector in particular – the best performing sector in Egypt – requires changes in regulation to facilitate advances in research and development. The roundtable ended with various offers of cooperation from universities such as TU Berlin El Gouna or the AUC, as well as a clear motivational message to young entrepreneurs in particular to keep trying to enter into cooperation with academic research institutions.

The roundtable has once more highlighted the benefits that can be reaped from an exchange between stakeholders. In order to enhance the much-needed collaboration between industry and academia, it has proven crucial to enter into a constructive conversation about best practices and the specific needs of the sectors. In particular, the roundtable brought to light young entrepreneurs’ power and drive for innovation, which can be utilised in transforming the Egyptian research and business landscape that lies ahead.

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