University-industry partnerships initiative launched

Lebanon and the European Union (EU) have launched a three-year partnership called IDEAL – Innovation and Development of Academic-Industry Partnerships through Efficient Research Administration in Lebanon – aimed at boosting research and development in universities.

The initiative, which is part of the EU's efforts to support the modernisation of higher education in the Middle East by enhancing collaboration, was officially launched at the American University of Beirut during a two-day meeting from 6-7 December 2012.

Funded by the EU's Tempus Programme and coordinated by the American University of Beirut (AUB), IDEAL will promote the role of higher education in development by helping universities to secure grants, manage projects and market innovative research that will enhance Lebanon’s research capacity and spur industrial innovation.

“What is important about this step is that it forges a partnership with Lebanese industrialists in order to market small-scale and larger innovations and inventions that result from research,” Fadia Homaidan, director of the office of grants and contracts at the AUB, which is leading the EU-backed project, told Al-Shorfa website.

“This gives inventors the opportunity to launch job-generating projects and enrich local industry,” Homeidan added.

The initiative will be supported by a €1 million (US$1.3 million) fund that will finance new administrative offices in universities to help manage grants and contracts, leaving scientists more time to focus on research.

Out of 144 countries, Lebanon ranked 119 in innovation, 93 in technological readiness, 48 in higher education and training, 129 in quality of research institutions, 95 in university-industry collaboration and 124 in terms of intellectual property, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2012-13 Global Competitiveness Report.

To improve the weak performance of Lebanon's universities in innovation, intellectual property rights and links with industry, IDEAL will also help forge links between local researchers and their international counterparts and will work with industry to identify research priorities and potential commercialisation of innovative ideas.

Besides helping universities to attract research funding from the public and private sectors, the new offices will help protect universities’ patents by applying the rules of intellectual property, technology transfer, licensing, and negotiating with companies and investors.

IDEAL involves 15 partners from Lebanon including the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, National Council for Scientific Research, Lebanese University, AUB, Beirut Arab University, University of Balamand, Modern University for Business and Science, the Lebanese Industrial Research Achievements programme and the research company Infopro.

The participating institutions represent over two-thirds of Lebanon’s higher education landscape.

The European partners include the UK-based Staffordshire University, University of Applied Sciences in Austria, Spain's University of Alicante, Italy's University of Bari Aldo Moro, Greece's Technological Educational Institute of Larissa and the British Mowgli Foundation.

Universities participating in IDEAL will continue funding the new grants and contracts offices after the programme ends in three years' time.