The main purpose of pursuing a doctorate degree in the industry is the bilateral cooperation between the industry and the research institute to exchange and create research knowledge. This enables the participating parties to support verification of research as well as validation in practice. The aim of the industry as a client is to examine non-trivial challenges in a fundamental scientific way and to find solutions which are working in practice. Application possibilities for this concept are almost unlimited. For example, new applications, functions, methods, products or processes can be the core of this kind of research project. Practical proximity over a longer time period (usually 3-4 years) is of particular advantage for the research institute. Industry experience and knowledge can be used to identify current challenges and can be targeted in research.
STAGE 1 - DEFINING THE TOPIC
The first step is to identify a suitable topic that can be processed by a PhD student. This step can be carried out in various ways. For example, the topic can be identified within an already existing research project with industry partners or a potential task can be derived from practical challenges identified by the industry. Other options are also conceivable at this stage.
STAGE 2 - FINDING THE PARTNERS
Secondly, a suitable candidate for the task has to be found on the basis of the defined task. Additionally, the respective partners (supervising institute or university / industrial partner) have to be found. It is important that the expectation of all parties involved is communicated right from the start and organizational aspects are clarified early to avoid negative surprises. Once all partners are defined legal documents and agreements should be addressed.
STAGE 3 - PHD PROCESS
The third step marks the actual Phd process. The corresponding process can vary according to the requirements of the respective supervising institute or university. It is common to have further arrangements between the parties involved e.g. additional requirements, defined number of publications, organizational aspects, etc. The most important thing though is to closely supervise the PhD student both at the institute and at the company. Regular appointments and an adaptation of established promotion processes are a must have.
STAGE 4 - PHD PROMOTION
The final step is the actual Phd promotion ceremony. Again, the guidelines of the supervising university must be followed and any particularities clarified in advance. Typically critical is the handling of research results.
TOUCH POINT 1 - MEETINGS BETWEEN PARTIES
There are various touchpoints between the parties involved throughout the promotion process. For example, there are regular discussions between the doctoral student and his supervisors (both at the university and in the company). These can be carried out face-to-face, in presence workshops, but also with the help of communication technologies (e.g. telephone / video / messaging) Regardless of the type of touchpoint, it is necessary that such exchange appointments are correspondingly prioritized by all parties involved. This is essential not only for the progress of the task but also for the motivation of the PhD student.
TOUCHPOINT 2 - PROMOTION CEREMONY
As in the previous touch point, it is advisable to arrange consultation sessions at the beginning of the project on the basis of the agreed promotion plan as well as to define several contact persons both at the university side and at the industrial partner.
The thematic proximity of the participating parties, a trusting cooperation, mutual support and a good, motivated support of the PhD candidate are the main success factors for a cooperative doctorate in the industry. The scientific work of a PhD student tries to combine the requirements and findings from practice with those of research. Therefore regular face-to-face exchange between the participating parties is essential. As a success model, a distribution of 80% of the time in the industry and 20% of the time in the institute has been proven practical but can be according to boundary conditions. In order to ensure an effective handling of the task, a precise task and expectation horizon is indispensable. A lack of presence or insufficient presence has to be categorized as barrier since the risk of spending too much time on finding the specific topic is very high. In addition, it must also be understood by the superiors at the institute, as well as in the industry, that such a PhD student is not to be regarded as a highly qualified workforce, but as a researcher who needs appropriate freedoms.
To ensure project success it is helpful to acquire a highly motivated and excellent student as well as qualified supervisors e.g. post doc graduates at the university and company side. Moreover, it is important to ensure equal treatment of the PhD student at university and within the company.
Also, it is advisable to arrange consultation sessions at the beginning on the basis of the agreed promotion plan as well as to define several contact persons both at the university side and at the industrial partner. It is important to provide access to relevant data to the company and to recent research at university (Confidentiality Agreement). For the sake of these collaborative projects, it is important to not understand the PhD student as cheap labor in company. Also do not understand PhD student as information source for potential projects with the company or other companies.
- Acquire highly motivated students.
- Ensure equal treatment of the student between company and academia.
- Arrange consultation sessions in advance.
- Provide access to data to company and university.
- Understand the student as cheap labour.
- Underestimate possible conflicting interests between company and science.
- Understand Phd student as information source for potential projects.