Industry-academia research partnerships: Navigating cultures

This abstract is prepared from two end of project interviews conducted with researchers and other academics and industry partners. Initial analysis has given rise to this abstract, with the full article to follow.


Industry-academia research partnerships are complex undertakings that present both opportunity and challenge. The complexity originates in the intrinsic—and essential—philosophical and cultural differences that generate tensions in the push and pull between each partner’s motivations and processes. This article arises from the ARC funded Linkage Project, Agile Opera: Chamber Opera in a New Era, undertaken by RMIT University in partnership with Chamber Made Opera, the Australia Council for the Arts and Federation Square Management during 2013-2017. It discusses Chamber Made Opera’s perceptions, as industry partner, of The Agile Opera Project’s success in navigating the challenging and fertile terrain of research partnerships.

The evaluation of industry-academia research partnerships is an under-studied area of research (Kaupilla, Mursula, Harkonen & Kujala, 2015), with existing work privileging science or quantitative studies (Ankrah, Burgess, Grimshaw and Shaw, 2012). The body of research in the area of arts and creative industry-academia partnership is small (Cassity & Ang, 2006; Price, 2015). Within the Australian context, Berman’s (2008) call for increased research into the experience of industry partners in ARC Linkage grant funded projects reflects the paucity of research into creative industry-academia partnerships.

Drawing on literature from diverse research fields, this article examines approaches to building collaborative research partnerships. We focus, in particular, on addressing the reported bias towards academia through creating conditions for knowledge-exchange that deliver benefits to all partners. Literature suggests that this goal requires participants to recognise that research motivations and evaluation of results will be different for both parties. A critical barrier to success is identified as the gap between the cultures of universities and industry (Cassity & Ang, 2006; Berman, 2008; Rast, Tourani & Aslan, 2015), with Price (2015) proposing the notion of ‘philosophical differences’ which we adopt as a concept embracing the challenges (and opportunities) facing industry-academia researcher partnerships.

Reporting on evaluative conversations between researchers from RMIT University and key study participants from Chamber Made Opera, critical conditions for successful collaboration are discussed within the context of The Agile Opera Project. Critical conditions include: shared goals founded on a common understanding of difference; trust and mutuality, well-established communication, and boundary-spanning individuals.

Keywords: industry-academia; research partnerships; collaboration; knowledge exchange


Ankrah, S. N., Burgess, T. F., Grimshaw, P., & Shaw, N. E. (2013). Asking both university and industry actors about their engagement in knowledge transfer: What single-group studies of motives omit. Technovation, 33(2), 50-65.

Berman, J. (2008). Connecting with industry: Bridging the divide. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 30(2), 165-174.

Cassity, E., & Ang, I. (2006). Humanities–industry partnerships and the ‘Knowledge Society’: The Australian experience. Minerva, 44(1), 47-63.

Kauppila, O., Mursula, A., Harkonen, J., & Kujala, J. (2015). Evaluating university–industry collaboration: The European Foundation of Quality Management excellence model-based evaluation of university–industry collaboration. Tertiary Education and Management, 21(3), 229-244.

Price, S. M. (2015). Academic and commercial research: Bridging the gap. Participations, 12(2), 168-173.

Rast, S., Tourani, A., & Aslan, A. S. (2015). Effect of organizational factors on university-industry collaboration: a conceptual model. International Journal of Business and Management, 10(6), 188.


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