The relationship between private businesses and institution-based scientific research has not always been smooth. The value of science can often be overlooked by businesses. This is not surprising when you consider how the motivations and ambitions of the two sectors can be very different. Scientists pursue the truth; the primary goal of business is commercial success.
When the two sectors team up, cultural differences between different styles of working can result (and have sometimes resulted) in a mismatch of expectations and misunderstandings. Communication issues can occur.
However, the two sectors are also reliant on each other. The private sector needs help from science and research to develop innovations and new solutions in their industry. In turn, the research and development sector is partially reliant on the private sector for funding. Working together more often could unleash enormous potential.
The Business Development Program
In Kuwait, the organization KFAS (Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences) is aiming to create and help manage better connections between the private sector and international research institutions. It believes that increased and improved collaboration can achieve incredible results for all parties involved.
The Business Development Program is linking Kuwaiti businesses with local and international knowledge providers with the explicit aims of transferring knowledge and expertise from universities and other institutions to provide practical solutions for businesses.
How is the program supporting businesses?
The program is currently welcoming applications from businesses that may be interested in support from scientists for the following:
- Initial feasibility studies before embarking on new product lines and ranges to take place before any in-house research and development
- Help with product development and improvements to the existing product development process
- The testing of new products
- Finding potential improvements to the quality of products or services
- Analyzing the likely benefits of adapting business processes or the introduction of new processes
- Support with the introduction of new technology
But how exactly can businesses benefit from scientific research and development?
What potential benefits can the project bring to businesses? How does science explicitly help the private sector? KFAS believes that the benefits of scientific research are wide-ranging and far-reaching. Here is a selection of advantages.
● To aid competitiveness
Staying up to date with emerging technologies and industry trends is crucial for businesses. Being early adopters of new technologies gives businesses a competitive edge. Having direct access to scientists leading the development of new processes and technologies can empower businesses to become industry leaders.
● To enhance productivity, streamline day-to-day operations and cut costs
Scientific institutions have very specific, highly methodological ways of working. Everything is evidence-based. Data is collected, then models are constructed, tested and rigorously analyzed. This can be very different from operations in business which are more likely to be bound by economic influences.
Working with scientists and their different way of thinking can provide deeper insights into virtually every aspect of a business. The crucial insights could be found in product testing, in analyses of business processes, and much more.
Scientific analyses may help a business pinpoint flaws and issues or identify successes to build upon. Indeed, developing a more scientific approach to business operations could prove to be extremely beneficial. It could help businesses streamline their day-to-day operations, improve productivity and cut unnecessary costs.
● To drive innovation
KFAS aims to facilitate innovation by providing collaborative scientific research funding for businesses working on innovative projects together with scientific institutions through the Business Development Program and other initiatives.
Through improved communications between the two sectors, ambitious goals are more likely to be met. Various research papers have highlighted the importance of scientists working alongside businesses, including that of Zucker and Darby (2000) which showed that the likelihood of a successful patent being registered increased when the two sectors worked together.
Successful innovation, of course, gives businesses a competitive advantage. Splitting research costs can build on this edge even further.
● To help build long-term strategic objectives
A better understanding of core business processes and industry trends, plus collaborative innovation, can doubtlessly help businesses develop more ambitious yet more achievable strategic objectives.
MRC: A case study
One of the businesses to take advantage of a KFAS program is MRC (Metal and Recycling Company), a Kuwaiti company specializing in recycling solid waste.
MRC sought help from KFAS with a project to enhance their technologies. It was particularly looking for solutions regarding applications for recycled polyethylene and polypropylene. There were limited market opportunities for these materials.
MRC was paired with two research institutions: SET Technology GmbH, which focuses on technology transfer, and Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV, a leading institution in process engineering and packaging. Both these organizations are based in Germany.
The project hoped to achieve:
- The testing of new, advanced technologies
- Improved environmental outcomes
- Reduced consumption of raw material, and more efficient production
- An increase in profitability
The project impact
Once the project reached completion, three main impacts were experienced:
- The salability of all plastic material grades was improved through the identification of new applications and new markets for these materials.
- It was concluded that MRC is achieving the best value possible given current product specifications.
- The project recommended the upgrading of plastic plants and the installation of vacuum extrusion. This would improve the reliability of recycled plastic products because of an improvement in quality.
The project was deemed highly successful, with MRC recommending involvement with the Enterprise Support Program to other businesses in the private sector. MRC was inspired by the project to :invest more in research and development in different production areas such as a metal recycling unit.”
How to empower your business through scientific research
Science can deliver innovation, improved technology and better work processes direct to your business. However, to do this, there needs to be good communication between parties and clear objectives set out. Working with a neutral organization that helps manage the project can be of clear benefit.
If you would be interested in harnessing the potential for scientific research to make an impact on your Kuwaiti business, then KFAS is still welcoming applications to their schemes.