University-Industry Collaboration in Higher Education: Exploring the Informing Flows Framework in Industrial PhD Education

Irene Bernhard, Anna Karin Olsson
Informing Science: The International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline  •  Volume 23  •  2020  •  pp. 147-163

The aim is to explore the informing flows framework as interactions within a PhD education practicing a work-integrated learning approach in order to reveal both the perspectives of industrial PhD students and of industry.

An under-researched field of university-industry collaboration is explored revealing both the perspectives of industrial PhD students and of industry.

Qualitative methods were applied including interviews and document studies. In total ten semi-structured interviews in two steps were conducted. The empirical context is a Swedish PhD program in informatics with a specialization in work-integrated learning.

By broadening the concept of work-integrated learning, this paper contributes empirical results on benefits and challenges in university-industry collaboration focusing on industrial PhD students and industry by applying the informing flows framework.

Findings expose novel insights for industry as well as academia. The industrial PhD students are key stakeholders and embody the informing flows between practice and university and between practice and research. They are spanning boundaries between university and industry generating continuous opportunities for validation and testing of empirical results and models in industry. This may enable increased research quality and short-lag dissemination of research results as well as strengthened organizational legitimacy.

Academia is recommended to recognize the value of the industrial PhD students’ pre-understanding of the industry context in the spirit of work-integrated learning approach. The conditions for informing flows between research and practice need to continuously be maintained to enable short-term societal impact of research for both academia and industry.

For practitioners: This explorative study show that it is vital for practice to recognize that challenges do exist and need to be considered to strengthen industrial PhD pro-grams as well as university-industry collaborations. Additionally, it is of importance to formalize a continuously dissemination of research in the industries.

Future international and/or transdisciplinary research within this field is encouraged to include larger samples covering other universities and a mix of industrial contexts or comparing industrial PhD students in different phases of their PhD education.

university-industry collaboration, industrial PhD education, work-integrated learning, third-cycle education, informing flows framework
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