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InConnect: How an Index Can Showcase the Benefits of Collaboration

Steinbeis collaborates in research to analyze the factors that dictate the success of innovations and value creation in alliances

The concept of networks and alliances lays an important foundation for developing successful innovations. At a time when there is an increasing need to pool interdisciplinary know-how in the development of new technologies, very few areas of business are unaffected by the concept. But networks only become successful alliances if key questions are answered: How? With whom? and when exactly? Then collaboration boosts innovation and enables value to be created in networks. A particularly important role in this is played by the transfer process that develops between the participants of networks. The networks that develop between universities and companies as a result of research projects – and examples of best practice that are derived from successful partnerships – galvanize the ability of alliance participants to engage in innovation. This is seen not only on a micro level, affecting individual stakeholders, but also on a macro level spanning interregional networks. Against this background, a team from Steinbeis 2i GmbH and STASA Steinbeis Angewandte Systemanalyse GmbH has developed a kind of cooperation index. Its name: InConnect.

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InConnect pools detailed data on research projects under the European Horizon 2020 program as well as national funding programs backed by a variety of German federal ministries (BMBF, BMWi, BMU, BMVI). The archive provides an overview of key collaborative research carried out on both a European and a national level in Germany.

On a micro level, InConnect pools data on specific collaboration networks, funding levels, and in particular, the topics looked at in research. Information is presented in summaries to provide meaningful indicators on the different links and overlaps between regional and supra-regional collaboration. Key figures provide a link between projects and stakeholders on a micro level, regional level, or macro level, providing a clear overview of both regional and supra-regional collaboration patterns. InConnect also forges a link between data gathered through partnership networks and socioeconomic metrics. This makes it possible not only to draw comparisons between regions and institutions, but also to conduct benchmark evaluations, and these assessments take into account the varying influences of collaboration on innovation. The solution includes a program that provides clear, interactive plots and diagrams of the indicators used by the index, making it possible to gain detailed insights into the nature of collaboration between different stakeholders and any relevant indicators on a regional level.

Key focus: business relations between Baden-Wuerttemberg and the United Kingdom

InConnect has already been used successfully for a number of projects since it was first introduced in 2019, and it has been put to a variety of uses. For example, it was used for a study called “Gemeinsam stärker – Stronger Together”: Successful Business Relations Between Baden-Wuerttemberg and the United Kingdom, which was published by Steinbeis 2i in the fall of 2020 on behalf of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor, and Housing. The cooperation index was used to identify existing partnerships within strategic innovation projects and highlight the respective strengths and complementary competences of the two economic regions. Not only did this make it possible to identify sectors and topics offering major potential for collaboration between Baden-Wuerttemberg and the UK, it also shed light on partnerships involving individual organizations and made it possible to derive recommended actions.

For example, an analysis of the cross-cutting topic that extends over a number of areas – automation and robotics – revealed that there are already numerous alliances underway between Baden-Wuerttemberg and the United Kingdom. 92 institutions from Baden-Wuerttemberg and the UK are currently collaborating on 36 projects in this area alone, and a large number of these organizations are actively involved in several projects. Eight SMEs, 14 large companies, two cities, and ten research bodies in Baden-Wuerttemberg are involved in cooperation projects. In regional terms, this is mainly concentrated in the area around Stuttgart and the cities of Ulm, Karlsruhe, and Heidelberg. In the UK, 22 SMEs, eleven large companies, one city, and 23 universities or research institutions are actively involved in partnerships.

Focal topic: R&D alliances between universities

Another practical example that shows how the interactive InConnect tool can be used is an evaluation that was carried out on the “R&D collaboration ecosystem,” which Steinbeis 2i offers to universities and has already been applied successfully. The evaluation covered a number of objectives. First, it has provided a structured and transparent overview of the number, regional emphasis, and key areas targeted by publicly funded projects, for example by providing heat maps. In addition, it has identified key project partners in science and industry. Finally, a benchmarking on project involvements and topics with selected universities in other European countries can be established.

Reports presented in this way are designed to encourage different stakeholders to incorporate results in their internal strategy processes in order to position themselves on a more strategic level when acquiring public funding. This includes being more selective when choosing project topics and cooperation partners from science and industry – a factor that can positively impact success rates when applying for public funding.

The InConnect cooperation index thus offers major potential to a variety of stakeholders, such as research bodies, companies, and political decision-makers, not only for evaluation purposes, but also for defining the future direction of successful collaboration on innovation projects.

For further information on InConnect, go to www.steinbeis.de/inconnect



Interested in conducting an analysis with InConnect? Simply get in touch!

Dr. Philipp Liedl (author)
Managing Director
STASA Steinbeis Angewandte Systemanalyse GmbH (Stuttgart)

Dr. Jonathan Loeffler (author)
Managing Director
Steinbeis 2i GmbH (Stuttgart)

Kim Schwarz (author)
STASA Steinbeis Angewandte Systemanalyse GmbH (Stuttgart)

Hartmut Welck (author)
Senior project manager
bio-economics, nutrition, industrial biotechnology, and innovation management
Steinbeis 2i GmbH (Stuttgart)