I wrote earlier this week about the importance of international cooperation to the effectiveness of academic researchers. Such cooperation is equally important between academia and industry.
A recent MIT paper highlights the benefits such collaboration can bring. It charts the story of a team of researchers at MIT who gleaned new insights into their work after a spell at a Spanish factory.
The researchers were working to try and find a new approach to desalination by utilizing graphene oxide. Whilst their method did provide significant performance benefits over existing methods, it was also around 50% more expensive.
The paper highlights the crucial input derived from their exploration of the topic with industrial partners. It cites how there have been a huge increase in interest in graphene in recent years, but despite many of the papers published claiming to be scalable, most utilize pure graphene, which is something like 5,000 times as expensive as graphene oxide.
By engaging with industry experts, the MIT team were able to overcome this, with the industrial support particularly effective at providing the researchers with the context to view their problem through fresh eyes.
“In industry, they don’t care about individual components. They’re looking at whole systems,” the researchers say. “By getting out into the trenches, you really do find out where their challenges are, you learn a lot from that experience that’s not out there in the literature. You can’t find this stuff in papers.”
The team hope that by documenting their experiences they can encourage others to collaborate closely with industry and perhaps provide fresh direction to their own work.