article (Tue Nov 06 2012)

Academia vs Industry

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  • #designthinking

Consider a coin. When you see a coin what is the first thing that comes to your mind? For me, the first thing that comes to mind is the two faces of the coin. And when you look at both of these faces, you quickly realize that they each have different engravings. Related, but different.

When talking about academia and industry, once can make a similar comparison. Both academia and industry are two faces of the same coin - science.

The proponents of academia rightfully claim that research and studies form the foundation of industrial innovations. It is impossible for any industry to make breakthrough innovations without the in depth analysis and expertise derived by the application of academic research.

The main strength's of academic research is the emphasis of precision in the outcome of research publications. In academia, the primary objective is to determine the root cause of a particular beahivour and to understand its myriad and subtle implications. Each sentence is podered upon in order to ensure that it conveys the exact meaning that it intends to convery. There is very little leeway in terms of misunderstanding. Thorough evidence in the form of references and citations are used in order to prove or disprove a hypothesis. A problem is probed from all the possible dimentions, only to to be able to finally pin point the actual reasoning behind its manifestation.

Interesting as it might seem, academia does have several drawbacks. The first one would be - the amount of time required to inspect a problem with such level of detail. Moreover, there is no certainty that a result would ever be obtained. It may take an indefinite number of years before a revelation even surfaces.

Industry on the other hand is different in many ways. The objective of business is to make profit. To survive and capture the market, to employ people, to satsfy stakeholders, to associate quality with brand. Since the primary objectives itself are different, it therefore becomes impossible to invest time and energy in finding the best solution to a problem. Industry works on the principle of "an optimal solution". The optiamal solution is the one that delivers - within time, withing budget, has a decent shelf life, can be upgraded, can be transformed into a template, has a better peformance than the one used before, and sets the ball rolling for making things easier at least for a few years so that the organization can focus on moving ahead.

In spite of these differences, both academia and industry do collaborate, for it is the intersection of these two that leads to innovation. Knowledge by itself is useless until it is applied to enhance the quality of life. And industry can never progress towards making life better if it does not attempt to understand and implement the wisdom of academic research.

Hence, although different, the two always need to collaborate. Because eventually everything boils down to one simple fact - We are talking about nothing else, but a single coin.