COORP and SMEs Gathering – Enhancing research and business dialogue and cooperation
“Concrete actions for applied research in support of SMEs” was the main take away from COORP and SMEs Gathering on 17 January 2018, kindly hosted by Professional College of Tirana (KPT). COORP brought together researchers in the social sciences, business and innovation and representatives of SMEs who brainstormed, shared ideas and experiences on the research and business dialogue and cooperation. This gathering is supported by PERFORM in the framework of COORP’s initiative to pilot three cases of research and business cooperation.
In his welcome note, Prof. Dr. Luan Karçanaj, Rector of Professional College of Tirana, emphasised the relevance of working towards enhanced cooperation between research and the private sector. He argued that an important role in this research and business dialogue can be played also by institutions like KPT. Even though KPT does not directly conduct research, it is equipped with state of the art laboratories and technologies that enable, along with qualified staff, excellent teaching and learning experiences. This laboratories and advanced technology centres could be used by researchers and business in the framework of joint projects and initiatives. Prof. Karçanaj concluded by saying: “our focus is on providing students hands-on experience, practical and professional competences to respond to the needs of labour market and today's digital society and therefore we are open for cooperation with researchers and SMEs to achieve this”.
Blerina Fani, Programme Officer at PERFORM, introduced PERFORM and its main interventions in Albania and argued that recently PERFORM is focusing more on initiatives that address the links between research and private sector. In addition to COORP, PERFORM has commissioned a study on the potential of cooperation between the social science research sector and private sector. This study will be conducted by Erjon Curraj, researcher on innovation and digital transformation and founder of Tech360. Ms Fani encouraged the participants to think creatively and propose interventions that could bring about systemic change.
Dr Blerjana Bino and Dr Fabjan Lashi, co-founders of COORP, highlighted some of the achievements of COORP so far and the services offered online by the platform. Subsequently, they introduced the idea of piloting three cases of research and business cooperation. COORP co-founders encouraged the representatives of SMEs to express their viewpoints regarding the potential and practicalities of cooperation between research and the private sector in Albania. Lindita Komani, Research and Business Developer at Talent Garden Tirana and Kompass, argued that businesses need capacity development for EU Project applications and management. In addition, she argued that applied research responding to the demands of the private sector is a suitable approach to strengthen research and business cooperation.
Representatives from Communication Progress opened up other dimensions of research and business cooperation by pointing to the quality of study programmes and competences of students. In the same vain, Erjon Curraj, researcher on innovation and digital transformation and founder of Tech360, highlighted the relevance of problem-solving approach in teaching and involving students in research projects. By empowering them, academia could better contribute to the needs of the labour market and private sector.
Erton Graceni, Director of ProTik, argued that there is a high risk of talented youth leaving the country and therefore SMEs have a smaller pool of qualified staff. Again, one of the suggestion was that COORP and PERFORM could support SMEs to apply for EU funding.
In conclusion, the plan for piloting three cases by COORP was presented. A call for application will be launched shortly and SMEs will express the will to host a researcher for a particular output. At the end, an end-line interview will be conducted with SME and research to evaluate the results of the pilot cases. A final roundtable will be organised to present the pilot as success stories and raise awareness on the need to enhance dialogue and cooperation between research and private sector.