Coordinated knowledge transfer
Rawad Chammas and Mirjam Landowski bring scientific knowledge into practice and drive WISTA's transfer projects forward
When it comes to knowledge transfer from universities into practice, WISTA relies on practice-oriented projects with scientific support. Two smart minds are responsible for planning and coordinating this effort, who themselves still have at least one foot in their academic education.
“Technology transfer is an integral part of the Science and Technology Park Adlershof’ DNA,” says Rawad Chammas. Its fundamental purpose was to transfer the know-how from the East German Academy of the Sciences into young companies. Until today, the knowledge pathways between the many university and other research institutes and the roughly 1,200 companies on the site are short. Chammas and his colleague Mirjam Landowski want to build on that and take it further. They are working on a coordinated transfer of state-of-the-art knowledge from research into the WISTA’s practice. Both work for WISTA Management – she is a research assistant for the executive board, he for the technology transfer division – and both are pursuing their doctorates in parallel.
No more planning for the drawer
In short, they are no longer waiting for the knowledge to find its way to the Adlershof site but go directly to the researchers. Mirjam Landowski is overflowing with ideas for such transfer projects: How Covid changed the world of work? – How are students approaching the current idea of an innovation corridor between Berlin, Lübben/Lübbenau and Cottbus? To this end, Landowski has launched two projects with her team in cooperation with the chair for urban and regional development of Berlin’s Technical University. The students sought out similar corridors all over the world, analysed them, and are now transferring those models to Berlin to develop concrete ideas for the corridor to Lusatia. Many issues were taken into account: liveable housing, schools, transportation, a new technology park in Cottbus, and co-working spaces close to residential areas along the route. The latter will include flexible office spaces that can be rented by Adlershof-based companies to enable employees who live in rural areas to maintain close ties to the site but travel only short distances.
“The students even cycled along the entire route,” says Landowski, who is as excited about this level of commitment as she is about the academic contributions, which were developed in final theses and for the final project report. “We are evaluating the ideas and are incorporating them into planning,” she says. This direct implementation of knowledge into practice is beneficial for both the students as well as WISTA. Ideas don’t just disappear in a drawer but receive the appreciation they deserve.
Other transfer projects are looking for ideas to digitise the skilled trade sector by analysing the status quo in skilled trade businesses and identifying potential and chances on this basis. In this way, clunky terms such as “human-technology interaction” are turned into concrete help for people working in the real world, whose tightly scheduled work routines leave little time for expanding horizons. Landowski, who is pursuing her PhD after studying psychology and engineering management, reports on her other projects: There’s one about smart city developments in Adlershof, another which involves working out the physical, psychological, and architectural aspects of hybrid work with university institutes. It is not only about transfer but about making the transfer beneficial for everybody involved. “The students work on topics that they are passionate about and sharpen their theoretical knowledge by engaging with the real world. WISTA then incorporates that knowledge into projects that it is planning anyway,” she says. The projects also generate final theses for bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as PhD projects. At the same time, they help turn students into experts with practical experience, quite a few of whom then join the ranks of WISTA.
Searching for new transfer paths
There are some cases in which the pandemic was a catalyst – in the new hybrid world of work (4.0), for example, or the innovation corridor. In most cases, however, it was a stumbling block for knowledge transfer, says Chammas. He systematically seeks out new paths and formats to jump-start knowledge transfer. To do so, he pores over research on knowledge transfer and works on translating it into practice. For him, it’s about the social dimension of research, the dynamic tension between intrapreneurship at institutes and companies, on the one hand, and the trend towards university spin-offs, on the other. Knowledge jumps from institutes into companies but also from head to head. For this reason, Chammas believes in putting humans at the centre. At a time when young researchers are founding spin-offs in droves, the ivory tower is crumbling. The boundaries between scientific knowledge and marketable know-how are disappearing. However, not all researchers are comfortable with entrepreneurship. Those who wish to remain in science and research or who are still studying can share knowledge in cooperations with start-ups. In addition to teaching, research, and consultancy, transfer is increasingly becoming the fourth pillar of science and research. Moreover, the work done at the institutes is being appreciated more with intrapreneurship creating new career opportunities and development prospects.
The fact that Chammas, a mechanical engineer, is working on his doctorate at WISTA is not as surprising as it may initially seem. His technical background enables him to speak at eye level with researchers and technology start-ups. His aim is to inspire people for knowledge transfer and create awareness for the untapped potential. Now that the pandemic is fading and giving way for face-to-face formats to return, the next phase of his research begins: Developing new formats for exchange so that the ideas and prototypes produced by researchers do not end up collecting dust on shelves and in drawers but inspire start-ups and established companies on the site. “There isn’t a royal road. We will experiment to develop fitting formats, spaces, and architectures for creative exchange,” he explains.
By Peter Trechow for POTENZIAL