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Forging Research Links between Academia,Business and Industry in Syria and Lebanon

 

EU Funded MATRE  Project

 

 

 

Forging Research Links between Academia, Business

and Industry in Syria and Lebanon

 

 

 

 

Prepared by:


Nabil Sukkar, Ph.D.

 

 

 

 

Presented to:

 

The MATRE  International Conference
Lebanese University, September 8-9,2016



 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

 

 

Page

 

ABSTRACT ……………………………………………………..

3

The State of Research Link Between Academia and Business ….

3

The State of Research, Development and Link with Industry…....

4

Factors Hindering R&D in Industry ...…….……………………..

5

What Should be Done to Encourage Research and Forge Links ...

5

Linking MATRE  Project Intended Research Centers in Syria and Lebanon with Centers in the EU Partners Universities ……..

 

7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forging Research Links between Academia, Business

and Industry in Syria and Lebanon

by

Nabil Sukkar[1], Ph.D.

 

 

ABSTRACT

Research links between academia on one side and business and industry on the other is extremely weak in both Syria and Lebanon. The main reasons are shortage of trust and mutual understanding, shortage of finance and competent human resources and shortage of competition in the market. There is also the prevalence ofhigh rent seeking business activities which deviates business from needed research. As a result,research that is produced in academia tends to be supply rather than demand oriented. The paper proposes formulation of a vision for needed research and presents suggestions to encourage research, to support cooperation between faculties of arts and faculties of sciences in the universities and to forge links between these two faculties and business and industry. It also recommends establishment of Business and ofScience and Technology Parks which bring academia, business,industry and finance under one roof. Last,the paperrecommends establishing strong links between the research centers intended to be set up under the MATRE  project with research centers attached to the MATRE Project EU partner institutions in Germany, Spain and Lithuania.

 

  1. The State of Research Link Between Academia and Business

The research link between academia and business in Syria and Lebanon is extremely weak.The survey reports prepared by the academic teams of the Syrian and Lebanese business schools under the EU financed MATRE project (Work package 1.0)identifiedthe following main factors that hinder these links:

  • Shortage of finance to support research
  • Insufficient human resources to support collaboration, and
  • Insufficient individual motivation on the part of academic staff (due to poor financial and promotion incentives).

 

 

To these factors we would like to add the following factors, based on our own observation:

  • On the part of business, there is the absence of sufficient competition in the market and a tendency on the part of business to go for easy rent seeking activities
  • On the part of academia, there is a shortage of the academic community’s knowledge of the business sector and its problems and of the country’s economic sectors,their strategies and constraints. As a result, most of academic research tends to be supply rather than demand oriented.

 

Theabove conclusion is supported by the empirical study presented in thisConference by A. Salhani and V. Khnouf[2] which points to a lack of confidence on both sides and concludes that a) academic research in Syrian business schools do not respond to business needs and b) business does not benefit from research conducted in business schools (public and private).The reasons for the gap according to the study’s empirical research are the following:

On the business (demand) side, business says: a) we donot trust the ability of Syrian faculty members to analyze problems and provide solutions to their problems, b) we do not know enough about the nature of research in Syrian universities, and c) we consider faculty research as costly. On the faculty (supply) side, faculty says: a) business is not willing to release data, and b) business is not willing to pay sufficiently for research

 

 

 

  1. The State of Research, Development and Link with Industry

The poor research link is even more serious in industry. Here the blame is more on industry which is not conducting and not requestingresearch and development (R&D),despite the low efficiencyof industry in both Syria and Lebanon. This is reducing industry’sability to compete in world markets. The low efficiency is a result of high production andtransaction costs, low technology in-use, and long history of protection in the case of Syria.

 

In the West, industry has always requested and financed scientific research and the recent globalization and digital revolution have increased R&D and Innovation efforts by industries because of intensified competitiveness in world markets. 

 

 

 

  1. Factors Hindering R&D in Industry

For industry successful R&D should raise return on capital and for the country, successful R&D should improve a country’s competitive advantage and allows it to integrate better in the global economy. The shortage of R&D in Syria and Lebanon is hindered by the following factors: a) absence of sufficient competition in the market which creates a sense of complacency, b) small size of industries and hence shortage of resources to carry out research, c) traditional mode of management, as the majority of industries are SME’s and are traditionally and non-institutionally operated. In addition, there is a shortage of industrial knowledge on the part of academia, as academic curricula and faculty’s knowledge is oriented more to the needs of business rather than to the needs of industry.

 

 

  1. What Should be Done to Encourage Research and Forge Links

The following is proposed to respond to the shortage of research and to help forge research links between academia, business and industry:

 

  1. Developinga vision for research, onethat should be developed through a joint effort of academia,business, industry, and government in both countries. This should also be done in collaboration with the main national research institutions in the two countries: The Higher Commissions for Scientific Research in Syria and The National Council for Scientific Research in Lebanon.
  2. The vision should focus, in our opinion, on the future of social, economic and business development in the two countries and their need in this development for: a) social equity,sustained growth and balanced urban and rural development, b)competitive business and industry,c) integration in the global economy, d) ethical business practices and corporate social responsibility e) domestic technological and skill upgrading, , f) minimizing technological dependency, g) a focuson the knowledge economy,h) enterprise development,i) better investment environment, j) avoiding rent seeking activities, and k) combating poverty and corruption, among targets.

The vision should also focus, in our opinion, in coordinating the efforts in the two countries and seeking harmonization between the two economies. To all the above, we should include in the case of Syria, attending to the needs of economic recovery and reconstruction in post conflict.

 

  1. On the part of academia, there is a need for better understanding of business and of industry,and on the part of business there is a need for a better understanding of what academia can provide. This could be done through more visitations as well as through holding conferences and seminars on cooperation in the two countries.
  2. In the attempt to understand the business community,academianeed to differentiate between two types of business, the traditional business sector and the new knowledge economy sector, which is led by young entrepreneurs. These two sectors have different concerns, different needs and different priorities. The traditional business sector has concerns which have been discussed quite often in the past (issues of management, marketing, organizational behavior, consumer behavior, human resources, financial markets, and others),while the high tech knowledge economy sector has concerns which has not sufficiently been attended to. These include entrepreneurship, innovation, start up business, incubation, venture capital, propriety protection, information technology applications and integrating with the traditional business sector, among others. Supporting this business sector will ask help youth employment and hence support social stability. Last, industry’s concerns which should be attended to include improving competiveness, innovation, developing new products and processes and enhancing use of IT applications.
  3. Universities should take the initiative to reduce the increasing gap between their research and industry, including the creation of academic programs that arerelevant to the needs of industry.
  4. For the sake of industrial research and development, there is a need for links between business, engineering and applied science faculties on one side, and between these faculties and the business and industrial communities on the other.
  5. Government should offer tax incentives for research, improve protection of intellectual property rights, and introduce competition policies. It should also reform the education system to enhancedevelopment of research and educational skills, to produce scientists and researchers, and to develop a curriculum responsive to industry’s needs.

 

 

  1. There is a need to minimize monopolies and rent seeking activities in business and industry on one side and increasing competition in the market on the other.
  2. Government, Industry and Academia should all be willing to fund research and development.
  3. In addition to research, we need to focus on commercializing research and development (R&D),through collaboration with venture capital institutions, business analysis (like the Lebanese Business Angels Network) and start up funds.
  4. There is a need for governments in both countries to develop Science, Technology and Innovation (S,T&I) Frameworks, linked to each country’s national development objectives and plans. This should be done in collaboration with business and academia.
  5. Finally, we need to establish Science and Technology Parks involving academia, business, industry and finance institutions. BerytechTechnological Pole in Lebanon, Al-Hassan Science and Technology Park in Jordan and Qatar Science and Technology Park are examples[3]. The parks could include business and/or technology incubators for start up business,providing work space, shared facilities and technical and business support services to tenants.

 

 

 

  1. Linking MATRE Project Intended Research Centers in Syria and Lebanon with Centers in EU Partner Universities

The newly established research centers under the MATRE  Project should have close links with research centers in the EU partner universitiesin the project in Oldenburg, Alicante and Vilniusor to centers  linked to the three universities. It is noteworthy that all three universities have entrepreneurship, innovation and technology centers with close links with business and industry. To be specific:

  • CarlvonOssietszkyUniversity of Oldenburg has links with the business sector through OFFIS and TGO

 

  1. OFFIS (Oldenburg Research and Development Institute for Information and Technology Tools and Systems)is a leading institution for information technology, focusing on energy, health and transport. It works closely with the CarlvonOssietszky University of Oldenburg. It is an application oriented research and development institute and a center of excellence for selected areas of information technology and its fields of application.
  2. TGO is a technology incubator for business starts up intended to support entrepreneurship.
  • Vilnius Gendiminas Technical University has a Sunrise Valley Science and Technology Park.
  • University of Alicante has a technology transfer park.

 

All these research and development centers,as well as the threeEU Partner universities could be a major source of support for the objectives of the intended research centers to be established in Syria and Lebanonunder the MATRE  project, let alone becoming a major support ofthe objective of forging research links between academia, business and industry in Syria and Lebanon.

 

 

 

 

Nabil Sukkar

nsukkar@scbdi.com

nabil.scb@gmail.com

[1]Managing Director of the Syrian Consulting Bureau for Development and Investment (SCB) and a former Senior Economist at the World Bank in Washington D.C. SCB is a partner institution in the MATRE  project.

[2] A. Salhani and V. Khnouf (2016), University- Business Research Collaboration in Syria: An Empirical Assessment and Suggested Conceptual Model.

[3]Berytech Technological Pole is a Lebanese business development center launched in 2003 by Saint Joseph University. It provides high tech hosting, incubation, training and counseling services to SME’s. Its shareholders include prominent Lebanese banks, large national and international corporations and local NGO’s, in addition to St. Joseph University. It has also set up several funds to provide seed capital for start up high tech knowledge economy business.