In the nearest future, depending on crude oil as major source of revenue will become irrelevant as the world is steadily drifting away from the use of fossil fuel. For example, electric cars are becoming popular and developed countries have started preparing towards this development. Use of solar energy to power cars and other equipment is also increasing. It is therefore important to look beyond crude oil. For example, the downturn in mining has made country like Australia to shift to knowledge -based economy. Knowledge-based economy is becoming significant in global economy and depends on the use of innovation to drive socio-economic productivities that require highly skilled workforce. To meet this demand, most developed countries are switching from traditional (university-based) doctoral (PhD) training to industry PhD. The training and educational experience of doctoral (PhD) students equip them as applied researchers and innovators that can meet the needs of various industries.
Benefits of industry-focused PhD to the students
- Wider career prospect: Industry PhD will be of benefits to the students that are not employed by any higher institutions of learning or research institutes before the commencement of PhD. Academic jobs are becoming scarcer and more competitive. There is need for career diversity. Industry -based PhD graduates could work as research and development scientists, product development scientist, technical writer, research or project managers and application specialists to mention few. In the academia, PhD holders can only work as lecturers or research fellows.
- Funding support (towards research, tuition fees and stipend): Based on the models of developed countries, industry provides research funding and contribute towards tuition fees and stipend of the PhD student to enable him or her focus on the main goal.
- Industry based work experience through mentorship: Students engaged in industry PhD can gain industry-based work experience involving practical application of theoretical knowledge.
- Industry engagement: The student will be able to communication complex research to industrial stakeholders in a simplified way.
- Lastly, the students will be able to gain broad industry relevant skills such as translational research skill that can transform knowledge to new or improved products and or services.
- Higher wages: Studies have shown that industry-focused PhD holders earn higher and secure job easily than traditional PhD holders.
Benefits of industry-focused PhD to theindustry
- Industry focussed research outputs: The most important benefit of industry-based PhD is the development of industry focused outputs (new or improved products and services). Right from the onset, the research project is industry focused to solve real life industry problem. When compared to the traditional PhD that the major output is usually a thesis that ends in bookshelves or library archive and a couple of scientific papers that only contribute knowledge relevant to academic or research communities. In most cases, the papers are not translated to real solutions to prevailing problems.
- Building innovation capacity of future innovators: The engaged industry is capable of developing innovators that can help improve the products and or services of the industry.
- Development of industry owned patents (intellectual property – IP): Since the research project is industry focused, the patent(s) generated during this period becomes the intellectual property (IP) of the industry. This IP could be translated to product(s), service(s) that can generate direct income or royalty to the industry.
Benefits of industry-focused PhD to the academia
- Collaboration between industry and academia: The academia has long existed in isolation without connection to the community and industry. Industry-focused PhD will enable collaboration between the industry (town) and the academia (gown). This collaboration could result into shared IP, research fund and provision of equipment for research. For example, some research laboratories are ill-equipped when compared to that of the industry. This collaboration will enable PhD students to carry out research in the industry while utilizing the facilities in such industry. This will on the long run speed up the completion of the research.
- Funding support (research fund): The universities running industry-focused PhD could benefit from research funding. For example, the running cost of the research could be completely off set by the industry or shared with the university based on the initial agreement with the industry.
Benefits of industry-focused PhD to the nation
- Improvement of national economy: Industry-focused PhD helps to drive innovation that in turn improve economic growth and prosperity of the nation. The benefits of this model of doctoral training of highly skill workforce have been harnessed by advanced countries mentioned above.
- Human capacity development and employment: The overall benefits of industry-focused to the students, industry and academia are translated to national capacity development and increase in employment rate.
Developed countries such as Australia, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Finland, Japan, Italy, Sweden and Denmark have long started industry PhD in which PhD students are assigned industry-based projects and internship in relevant industry thereby fostering research collaborations between the academia and industry. During my doctoral training in Australia, two of my PhD colleagues spent one year in industry horning their research skills and solving industry-focused problem while all the samples that I used for my research were graciously supplied by a company throughout my study. The outcome of my research helped to solved one of the major problems of the industry.
Undergoing doctoral education should go beyond writing thesis and publishing articles to translational research that can solve real life problems thereby driving national economy. To achieve this, established industries should be ready to partner with the universities, provide internship opportunities for PhD students while the universities should provide strong support and monitoring system that will enable linkage of industry and suitable students without any form of bias or favourism in addition to development of PhD suitable industry-initiated projects in partnership with interested industry.
Dr Odeyemi is Principal consultant, Higis Consulting, a research advisory and consulting service firm. [email protected]