COSIMENA launched the Economy Cluster in collaboration with the German-Arab Chamber

On Tuesday, 23rd May 2017, the DAAD and German-Arab Chamber (AHK) joint forces to kick off COSIMENA’s economy cluster with a roundtable on Science and Business. More than 50 representatives from DAAD, AHK, and Egypt’s research and industry sectors came together at the DAAD premises in Cairo to discuss developments and challenges regarding the cooperation between academia and the private sector in Egypt. In welcoming the guests as the representative of the German embassy to Egypt, Rauia Toama expressed her appreciation to the Egyptian business sector for having taken the initiative to bring forth the idea for this meeting. The roundtable, as she emphasised, should be embraced as a window of opportunity to foster cooperation between critical stakeholders. COSIMENA and the DAAD can offer a platform for such a cooperation, but input from the assembled experts is crucial, agreed Dr Roman Luckscheiter, head of the DAAD Cairo Office. Andreas Hergenröther, CEO of the German-Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce, joined in remarking that Germany can serve as an example of such successful cooperation, and the AHK can offer its services and expertise on the topic.

The first of two roundtables of the afternoon tackled the cooperation between industry and academia in higher education. Dr Wolf, Assistant Professor at the Technical University of Berlin, introduced the topic by providing an insight into the German experiences of TVET. His keynote emphasised that the introduction of a dual training system is not an endeavour that can be realised through government effort alone, but importantly requires dedication by businesses as well as significant support from society. The young business entrepreneurs present agreed that a wider institutional effort must be undertaken to stimulate cooperation as well as to raise an awareness for the concept of innovation in students early on. While the participants agreed that the business sector should become significantly more active in performing its responsibilities towards the education of prospective employees, representatives of the education sector already saw critical responses of education programs to the demands of industry and the economy. Businesses are increasingly involved in setting qualification frameworks and recently the emergence of interdisciplinarity as a quality of educational programs could be witnessed. Still, it seems that a resistance to vocational training programs among society as well as the risks that businesses fear when investing in students remain as major challenges for the realisation of dual training programs. Closing off the first roundtable, all participants recognised the importance of developing success stories of cooperation between academia and business in the higher education sector for a holistic remodelling of the system that is 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 as a successful model for cooperation between industry and academia illustrated the fact that a successful cooperation can only emerge from a work model in which academia supports businesses in their research rather than taking over their tasks. Academia’s role must remain with scientific innovation, while industry should work on its application. Despite this distinction in roles successful partnerships can be built in which businesses can provide for the 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 be provided. In the specific context of Egypt however, participants of the roundtable remarked that the establishment of a framework for cooperation and the clarification of the laws surrounding it are absolutely necessary for joint initiatives to be realised. According to experts at the table, especially the pharmaceutical sector as the best performing sector in Egypt, requires changes in regulation to facilitate advances in research and development. The roundtable ended with various offers for cooperation on the side of universities such as TU Berlin El Gouna or the AUC as well as a clear motivational message to especially young business to keep trying to enter into cooperation with academic research institutions.

The roundtable has once more highlighted the gains 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 constructive conversation about needs of the sectors and best-practices discovered. The roundtable especially brought to light the power and drive for innovation of young entrepreneurs that can be utilised in the transformation of the Egyptian research and business landscape that lies ahead.