Industry and academia: cooperation models for educational innovation

Pierpaolo Limone
University of Foggia

Rosaria Pace
University of Foggia

Introduction and aim: Introduction to the study, its objectives and/or hypotheses
Industry, schools and universities increasingly interact and cooperate, even in co-design processes for the development of resources, environments and technologies for learning and teaching.
The search for external funding, in addition to traditional academic channels, but also the participation in competitive European research calls and the development of complex products and services for the educational context, are increasingly strengthening the relationship between university and industry. In Italy, however, a systematic reflection on the models of industrial research in education has not yet been adequately developed. Research practices related to prototype design based research in the humanities and in the social field, have not gained a full academic legitimacy. The repertoire of methodological innovations and the epistemological challenges, that is slowly accumulating, deserves a thorough analysis.
The aim of our research is to investigate the models of collaboration between university and industry that help to outline strategies to promote effective relationship between educational research and technology innovation.

Research methodology: Methods used and/or approach taken
Our research laboratory (ERID LAb, Foggia, Italy) has extensive experience in the design of educational products with leading Italian companies such as Samsung Italy, HP Italy, Mondadori. From these recent research experiences we try to model the relationship between university and industry to foster strategic interventions of educational design on a large scale. Our research methodology includes: literature review and benchmarking of industrial research in education, design based reasearch and participatory design with final users and products developers.

Results and implications: results and/or arguments summarised
In the last five years, our laboratory has collaborated with several Italian and international companies (mainly ICT field and publishers) , thus allowing us to develop a deep expertise in industrial research projects for the educational field.
These experiences of applied research included the creation of cross-media learning environments (“MediaEvo” project); the development of intercultural learning resources and digital platforms for the dialogue between schools and museums (“Education, schools, museums”); the design of social networking platforms for tourism companies (“Sonetto” and “Tempting Streets” projects); the design of social learning environments for schools (Living Lab projects).
We also observed from a privileged perspective the relationship between industry and society, focusing on the educational innovation. From these experiences we started to piece together the models of cooperation between industry and university. We are trying to modelize this relationship in order to define the most effective processes for the educational context.
A first draft of the model was presented during the annual meeting of two national educational scientific societies in Genoa, in September 2015 (EM&MITALIA 2015).

Conclusion: main outcomes of the study
The relationship between industry, academia and educational institutions become increasingly interrelated, as we experienced within our research project. In order to ensure that innovation is real, widespread and incisive - in our view - the agreements with development companies, with policy-makers, with the actors of the educational contexts are not enough. The university can play an active role in the establishment of models of investigation shared with industry, also through participatory design strategies and social research methods able to grasp the users real needs.
The companies today invest in projects of social responsibility, while the academy is moving ever closer to the private actors in an attempt to make science accessible and useful. This phenomenon entails a rethinking of the aims of academic research, but also of the logic of production for the industry. To create a core of research & development may not be enough, especially in the educational field.
There is no doubt that the private sector should pursue the economic advantage and the achievement of objectives related to the market. But it is equally undeniable the need for an open dialogue, halfway between technical innovation, social progress, and economical prosperity, starting form precise models. This process would help to make concrete and tangible the third mission of the university, which too often in Italy remains a mission statement.