Effective Approaches for Sharing Academic Research Learnings inside Companies

Publishing research results in a reputable technical journal is a desirable outcome for a successful academic research collaboration.

Publishing research builds the authors’ reputation, highlights the collaboration between university and industry, and makes the results broadly available to the global research community. However, it may not be the most effective or timely approach to share learning inside a company. Too, there are many industry funded research programs that fail to deliver clear results. Those outcomes are less likely to be published, despite there being valuable learning from the project. There are more effective means of sharing academic research learning within a company.

Sharing Learning through Poster Sessions

An effective approach to share academic research learning inside companies is a poster session. Yes, a poster session, like the ones you did in college! While this approach requires coordination, it is well worth the effort. It is a timely and comprehensive approach. Bringing together technical staff for an informal poster session creates an environment for stimulating and inspiring technical exchanges, ensures relevance to the business, informs groups across the company of the research learning, and helps improve the communication skills of the poster presenters. 

If a virtual option is desired, consider a virtual poster session with independent virtual poster “rooms” or a series of moderated panel sessions grouped around technical themes kicked off with 3–5-minute pitches by each panelist. The virtual option offers the benefit of participation from a global audience if travel costs are a constraint. Or consider both. 

I have been part of hosting more than two dozen of these sessions over the past several years, and they are always invigorating for both poster presenters and attendees. The lunch hour is probably the best time for an in-person event, ideally with food and drinks, but choose the best time based on the norms of your company. Time virtual sessions in the early morning to include Europe and the early evening to include Asia. 

Successful events require planning and ideally a small budget for snacks and drinks as well as professional looking posters, but budget is not a showstopper. Consider partnering with corporate communications, the innovation team and/or college recruiting on the event. Then:

  • pick a date and time based on your auditorium or cafeteria availability, 
  • provide an executive summary style poster template, 
  • get the support of the technical staff that engage with the universities, 
  • set a deadline for technical staff to submit the posters so you can get them printed, 
  • and get the word out through internal social channels.

Poster Template

The poster template is most effective when professionally designed, concise and printed in a large format. Think of amplifying the information that would be contained in the executive summary or summary and conclusions of a technical publication. Many presenters ask if they can keep the posters to hang in their workspace after the event, indicative of the sense of pride garnered from the experience. The template should include:

* a section on the relevance of the research to the business, 

* the hypothesis being tested, 

*the approach, 

* the results, 

* next steps, and 

* acknowledgements. 

Poster Session Check List

Virtual Panel Session Check List

Prepare the Posters and Presenters

The poster presenters can be the primary technical lead that is engaging with university partners, or consider inviting a few of the students that are conducting the research to participate. Involving students gives the company an advantage when it comes to hiring talent. If you are conducting virtual sessions, you will need to develop technical themes to group multiple projects together. Whether your company has a centralized or decentralized approach to academic research collaborations, it is important to have a consolidated list of all of the research supported as well as the primary technical lead for the engagement at your company. And by including projects with both successful and unsuccessful research outcomes, you are supporting a culture of innovation by focusing on the learning in both cases.

To help make the posters clear, the academic relations team can provide constructive feedback to the technical staff. In my experience, the presenters view this as one-on-one coaching that is a perk of participating. The template or slides for virtual events should also be designed, and a practice session to test out the audiovisual equipment and to make sure presenters keep within their allotted pitch time is highly recommended. Coaching on presentation style is also helpful to the technical staff.

Publicize the Poster Session within the Company

Send out save the dates on your company’s social media channels, get the word out through employee resource groups, and work with executive assistants to invite the leadership team to the event, including the CEO. In my experience these sessions are as inspiring and fun for the executives as they are the technical community, with the bonus of generating more support for university engagements. 

After the Event

Capture attendance. Attendee reports on videoconference platforms make this straightforward for the virtual sessions. Get some great photos of the event to share on social media after the event. Send a survey to attendees to gather feedback that can be included in a postmortem on what worked well and what can be improved. Try out new things each year. And last but not least, work with the corporate librarian to archive the posters and virtual session recordings in your corporate engineering library or appropriate intranet site. Consider publishing a summary article with photos to post on the Intranet site for those who were not able to attend the event. Sharing the enthusiasm and outcomes on multiple internal communications channels increases employee engagement. 

Think Outside the Publication Box

While publishing technical results is a prestigious and tangible outcome of an academic research collaboration, it is not the most effective way to share learning inside a company. In my experience a more timely and comprehensive approach to share this learning inside a company is an informal poster session or series of virtual moderated panel discussions. While coordinating and planning is required, there are numerous benefits. And I am confident you will have fun! 

Heartfelt thanks to my colleagues from Lam Research and beyond who engaged in these sessions and fine-tuned them over the years. Thinking of planning a session? Use the checklist provided and feel free to contact me at [email protected] to offer advice on your approach.

Lubab Sheet-Davis

UI Collab

Stay Informed

Subscribe to UI Pulse to stay informed and gain exclusive insights on how to power your partnerships.