Business Collaboration: From Funding To Knowledge And Materials

Interview with Janne Lundén, Senior Lecturer in Food Control
Department of Food Hygiene and Environmental Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

Janne is a University lecturer and researcher in food control. He teaches all matters to do with food control authorities, food control practices and their effectiveness.

Why do you collaborate with companies?

“Well, in the first place, food businesses are the subject of my research so it is very natural to involve them in my studies. However, I also do it to increase the impact of my research results. It is easier to get results into use in society if you collaborate with companies. Moreover, I believe it is important to have discussions with all kinds of stakeholders from the authorities to the industry and get their views and opinions on the subject of our research. This gives us an understanding of the overall picture of where our field is headed, the research needs and leads to new research questions.”

What benefits do you get from working with companies?

Like many, Janne recognizes that company collaboration can yield external funding. He has himself worked on a project funded by the industry. This involved studying food control in slaughter house. The intention was to identify areas of overlap in food regulation and effectiveness of inspections, with the aim of making these cheaper, easier and more flexible.

An important part of company collaboration is sharing knowledge and materials

However, Janne sees the value of business collaboration beyond funding.  “Companies in the field of food control usually have very little resources available for research, most don’t have any R&D budget at all, therefore it can be difficult to attract funding. However, this doesn’t mean that companies and universities are not able to collaborate. An important part of company collaboration is sharing knowledge and materials, mutual participation in workshops and also teaching.”

Janne has good experiences of knowledge-based collaborations. One of his studies involved interviews and surveys with six different focus groups. Company representatives contributed to these working pools with their own knowledge, time and at their own expense. Getting access to such subgroups can be pricey, so this case allowed the university to perform the study at a much lower cost.

“It is also beneficial to keep in mind that, even if the company cannot provide funding for your project themselves, it can be beneficial to have a positive statement from the industry when trying to apply for public funding. This shows support and a need for your research project in society.”

It’s important to be active in seminars and conferences. It’s much easier to talk to people if you have seen them somewhere before.

You mentioned teaching. Why is business collaboration important when it comes to training?

“We sometimes use industry professionals as lecturers for graduate and post-graduate students. This allows for open discussion on the topics we teach, good understanding of where the field is going and we also get their opinion on food control and how it should be developed in their opinion”

Do you believe your research has had some impact on society or the economy?

 “I believe so. At least the Food Control Authority, EVIRA, has stated numerous times that they have got a lot of useful information from our studies. They have read final reports and publications of our research, going as far as assigning a specific person to go through the conclusions and outcomes. I believe the knowledge has helped to identify which aspects of food control need changes and further development.”

The most important aspect of our work is food safety and company collaboration should never influence that.

What advice would you give to other researchers considering business collaboration?

“Everything starts with a good research question as well as the establishment of personal relationships within the company. Firms need to think your research question is important if you intend on getting support from them. You also need to build a culture of trust as the subject of our research can be a delicate matter for the company, so take confidentiality seriously. Additionally, networking at different events and conferences is very important for stimulating and inducing collaboration.”

Finally, as many others, Janne emphasises the importance of scientific integrity. One should never promise anything regarding the results. Food safety always comes first and company collaboration should not have any effect on the outcomes of the research.

The Business Collaboration Team offered all faculties an opportunity to pilot a new service,”The Business Collaboration Accelerator”. The Faculty of Medicine is our first pilot case. In this blog series, we interview 15 veterinarians about their experiences with industry.