Universities must embrace cultural change

Universities are among the most successful institutions created. They do not however accept change lightly. But what role do universities need to play in the knowledge society of tomorrow to continue their success. This question grows more pressing for the western welfare states as their dominance in research and innovation is being challenged by globalization and the dynamics of the emerging economies.

The example of the US, which like no other nation, has been able to benefit from universities as drivers of growth, makes this abundantly clear. For a long time America has combined cutting-edge university research with strong science and engineering and entrepreneurial-oriented business schools. This has allowed the country to promote groundbreaking innovations.

Yet, in an era of major shifts in information flows and communication practices, there are increasing doubts about whether the concepts that allowed previous innovations remain sympathetic to the challenges and research priorities of the future.

The advance of biotechnology and social sciences absorbs almost half the research funds of US universities. Add the expansion of national security and military research, and universities have lost important drivers for the industrial use of new scientific insights. Instead, the ivory towers, which were once believed to have been abandoned, have re-emerged. Tackling the giant US budget deficit, will also require new structures and processes in research and teaching at universities.

In Europe, Germany may appear to be in better shape to innovate, with its broad mix of industrial and service-related leadership and its strong and flexible small and medium-sized businesses. However, this should not obscure obvious weaknesses. What has been achieved through a drive for excellence and high-tech initiatives, for which the government has provided competitive university funding and more autonomy in recent years, may be lost once more. Ideological campaigns declare either that universities are not and should not be subject to economic rules, or express fears about standardized expectations, which are said to lead to a commoditization of higher education.

Universities must deliver on accepted performance measures yet differentiate themselves sufficiently to attract scarce resources under competitive conditions.

Germany and the US face similar problems. So far the American and the German university system have learnt from each other in a time-delayed fashion. Now, due to mounting competitive and financial pressures, universities need to learn from each other simultaneously. University success is not about tearing down the ivory towers. Instead, it is about opening their windows as far as possible to other disciplines and to new markets.

While freedom of teaching and research must be defended, at the same time bridges for mutual transfers of knowledge and best practices have to be built.

We need Alexander von Humboldt’s ideas to be applied to the 21st century. The university of the future is only viable if best research and best teaching go hand in hand with best knowledge transfers. To achieve these goals, universities need reliable funding to generate innovative ideas through research. Interdisciplinary links, a close integration with the environment (both social and natural) as well as research relevance are also necessary.

All this calls for a major cultural change on both sides of the Atlantic. For new scientific knowledge to be used more rapidly in universities and businesses, the university approach to knowledge generation, transmission and application needs to be rethought. More risk capital, new business models and efficient intermediary organizations are needed in order to build a bridge over the valley of death, in which so many basic research contributions have perished before they could become innovations.

Such efforts would be worthwhile. It is not only about wealth and employment; it is also about the development opportunities of each individual and the defense of intellectual freedom.

Written by Michael Czinkota and Andreas Pinkwart and originally published in the Financial Times, August 2011.

No More Silos! (Part 4)

Export Promotion and Assistance.

Charles Ford, acting assistant secretary for trade promotion and director general of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, spoke about new export insights generated through research and analysis. Of all the U.S. firms that export goods, 58% only ship to one country and another 25% only export to two or three countries. If the skills, competence and competitiveness are already there, then such firms should be encouraged to serve more countries around the world.

Export assistance to large exporters suggests the largest yields of governmental support efforts, yet large exporters need help the least. Small and medium-sized firms can use the support most but often are uninformed and disinterested in engaging in exporting.

Based on World Bank data, $1 dedicated to export promotion generates up to $40 in actual exports. A new strategy intends to achieve exports by investing in the United States, particularly by making use of existing and growing university networks in export promotion.

Caroline Freund, a chief economist for the Middle East and North Africa region in the World Bank who specializes in international trade and finance, reported on research on firm size effects on export success. She found that there was little evidence of rapid growth from small to large exporters. Rather, exporters tend to be already large when they start with the export effort. Most of the trade is seen to take place on an intra-industry level, and more than one-third within firms. The top 1% of firms in a country typically carries out 80% of the export work, and export activities are characterized by a very high market entry and exit of firms, according to her research.

This article is a part of a series written by Michael Czinkota and Charles Skuba who report on the March 2013 meeting on trade policy and international marketing, a collaboration between the American Marketing Association, Georgetown University and the U.S. International Trade Administration. View part 3 hereGuest writer Charles Skuba teaches international business and marketing at Georgetown University. He served in the George W. Bush Administration in trade policy positions in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

No More Silos! (Part 3)

Universities in an International Era.

Van Wood, Philip Morris Chair in International Business at Virginia Commonwealth University, believes that universities either need to be globalizing, or will become irrelevant. Vision and purpose matter, where faculty champions make international success happen both through their entrepreneurship and their willingness to develop partnerships and alliances

Professor Frank Franzak, of Virginia Commonwealth University who specializes in global marketing strategy, believes that in order for a globalization effort to succeed, a university must secure faculty buy-in. However, it’s difficult to sustain a long-term effort because of changes in the needs and lifestyles of individuals driving programs. Universities must learn from observations through the ongoing capturing and analysis of data.

This article is a part of a series written by Michael Czinkota and Charles Skuba who report on the March 2013 meeting on trade policy and international marketing, a collaboration between the American Marketing Association, Georgetown University and the U.S. International Trade Administration. View part 2 hereGuest writer Charles Skuba teaches international business and marketing at Georgetown University. He served in the George W. Bush Administration in trade policy positions in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

 

More International Scholars at Georgetown?

As firms go international organizational restructuring may become necessary. This applies not only to commercial enterprises but also to universities.

 Georgetown University’s Provost Groves announced on January 30, 2013  that 4 new positions will be created in order to “support [the] continued growth of our educational and research agenda.” They will be filled by current faculty and thereby promote increased communication flows from the faculty to the Provost office.

The office will be reorganized by the addition of 3 new Vice-Provosts, one overseeing faculty, the second education and the third research. The goals for these new positions include; recruiting world-class scholars and teachers, the integration of both undergraduate and graduate programs along with facilitating research projects by faculty.

There will also be a Vice-President for Finance and Program Analytics.

The focus on recruiting, integration and measurement is likely to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of Georgetown’s programs and activities. International scholars will bring new thinking to campus which will bring us all closer.