Let’s collaborate to innovate

JOINOLOG as a project, but also as a conceptual vision, aims to stimulate more collaboration between industry partners, scientists and policy makers from the MENA region and beyond. A core reason why we believe that such collaboration can be rewarding for everyone involved is that we are convinced that a successful and diverse collaboration can result in innovation. More precisely, it can result in innovations that actually address the needs of the industry and, ultimately, the society. The idea of research collaboration for innovation is not new and in the following  article, we are presenting two well-known cases and one very personal excellent case that inspired us.

JOINOLOG would not exist without the internet, the one tool that allows us to communicate and collaborate seamlessly, even if we are not physically in the same place or even the same continent or timezone. This one of the most disruptive innovations of our lifetime came into being in the late 1980s and is generally credited to Tim Berners-Lee. He set up the first web server, as well as later the first modem in CERN, the research center of the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva. That center was built and funded by the European Union to unite the brightest minds in nuclear science and related fields of research in one location. The results of this interdisciplinary and international research excellence center are, indeed, outstanding, not just in the case of the internet. 

Granted, CERN might be an unfair comparison to JOINOLOG: Being founded by an EU resolution and receiving significant funding from all EU member states, it naturally is larger in size and volume than JOINOLOG will ever be. The manifold of partners is also unlikely to be reached by JOINOLOG – or many other research institutions indeed. But CERN is by far not the only good practice that shows how disruptive innovations are being made at research centers through collaborative activities.

Another disruptive digital innovation that did change the world undisputedly is the MP3 technology. The genesis of the technology was described by a German professor in the 1980s, but it was only when a larger group of researchers collaborated that the technology could be standardized and further developed to hit the market. The main research work was coordinated by a German private research institution, but also involved several universities and technology companies from the US, France, UK, Germany and Japan. Only through this strong collaboration could the innovation ever become an industry standard that is widely accepted and ever since further developed. Again, collaborative research of vastly different stakeholders led to a disruptive innovation.

Finally, the German part of JOINOLOG, the team of Fulda University of Applied Sciencesaround Prof. Michael Huth, is based at a research center itself. The “House of Logistics and Mobility” (in short: HOLM) is a German collaboration center that brings together industry partners and universities from all over Germany and even beyond. It was founded by the State of Hesse and received funding from the state for a few years, but is now self-sustainable. As a research team, we have benefited again and again from the close proximity of some of the largest logistics companies in Germany, who all have offices next door to ours. Several research consortia came together for projects this way and some resulted in tangible and applicable outcomes, which entered the market as startups. 

These, and many other examples are what inspires and drives us to promote interdisciplinary and international collaboration between policy makers, scientists and industry partners. We are and remain convinced that only such broad initiatives can and will ultimately result in innovations that truly satisfy the needs of the society, industry and sciences.

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