Our workforce needs our changing, and that’s fostering new ways for industry and academia to collaborate.
While science and technology are the foundation of innovation, both can only take us so far. It’s the people who will make a difference. That’s because innovation requires talent, and companies that value innovation, value the people behind the ideas.
Supporting those innovators at the university level increases understanding of evolving technology and how that technology can be applied in industry.
Closing The Gap
The idea of a gap between academic research and its applicability in industry is not new; how we’re closing that gap is what's new.
One example is regional institutes for talent development, like the one we’ve formed with Microsoft and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Together, we created Wisconsin’s first institute devoted to the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT): the multidisciplinary Connected Systems Institute (CSI), located at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
This is one way to harness the power of connecting academic research and industrial experience. Industry teams with universities to introduce students to real-world industry challenges – and in the process, students solve practical problems.
As a lecturer in the Connect System Challenge at the CSI, I will focus on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and technologies and applications that were a vision only a decade ago.
At the core of the curriculum is an understanding that as much potential as the IIoT offers, it’s the people applying the technology who will make the difference.
People are creating analytics (that tell us if we’re doing the right things) and tools that enable innovation. People are the researchers and the "roll up your sleeves" innovators.
What’s important is that they also are practical – an important lesson for students destined for the workplace.
We’ve aligned our priorities with curriculum before. What’s new is the scale.
Connectivity, artificial intelligence and machine learning, we’ve overcome these hurdles. So instead of working just with a university program on sensors or power optimization, we’re talking about connected ecosystems.
Today’s students, adept at using apps and applying technology, are no longer working in the abstract. They will see the results of their work applied to real problems in industry, today.
Every project can produce results and insights. The classroom is more than theory; it will prepare students to make a real contribution, right away. And that is the best example I can imagine of investing in collaborations that produce results.