An efficient division of labor

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Andrea Engel coordinates a diverse team of scientists, technical and business experts working on the partnership with Stanford University. This is her view on cooperations in the field of R&D

TEXTELIZABETH HAWKINS

publication date14th JANUAR 2022

Ms. Engel, how do you look for promising partnerships?

First of all, we examine the technical potential of a technology and then we look at how it could be commercialized. Of course, the team and culture of our partners also play a critical role. In the example of our collaboration with Stanford University, we were very fortunate to have an open culture early on where we could share ideas. Right from the beginning it was a fruitful relationship where both sides are interested in making great progress. In general we evaluate a lot of technologies and sometimes it can be challenging to find common ground with a potential partner. It is important that everyone is committed and willing to dedicate time. Collaborations don’t work if you run them on the side.

What are the main benefits of such collaborations?

At Evonik it is not possible for us to do everything on our own. Although we do R&D, we concentrate our efforts on development and are not usually involved in academic basic research. Collaborating with partners is an opportunity for us to take technologies that are at a certain level of maturity and develop them for commercialization.

And what are the challenges?

Building a trustful relationship between the teams can be a challenge. When working on research it is important not to just share successes, but also talk about failures. There must be a good understanding of roles and responsibilities between the partners and everyone must be aware of the common goals. In the case of our collaboration with Stanford, we have actually never met in person. Due to pandemic restrictions we weren’t able to travel, and now we are working virtually. Despite these difficult circumstances we have continued to develop a good virtual team spirit and I have the feeling that we have an excellent team in place and a good relationship.

How important are partnerships like this for innovation?

They are very important for innovation. By working together with partners we can help accelerate research and bring to market what otherwise might have remained in a university. We need to know where the market is heading and which competencies we need to develop to meet our customers’ needs in the future. Through partnerships we can bring know-how from a lab into clinics much faster than if we did the whole process ourselves.

Photo: Evonik Industries

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