Why collaborating with academia is the way forward for engineering companies

Australian Consulting Engineers design and development company Soto
Group advises private companies in the engineering sector to collaborate with
academia and various technical development agencies and tap a lucrative
business potential.

According to Managing Director, Mr Frank Soto, it comes down to properly
analysing one’s own capabilities and identifying ‘value propositions’ for
universities and think tanks, followed by affirmative steps and dialogue with
the institution. He observes that Soto Group has taken stock of its core
strengths and looks for ways to infuse this into emerging opportunities; it has
moved into new areas such as collaboration with industry to help commercialise new
technologies to market.

For instance, Soto Group does ‘return engineering’ for UniNSW wherein the
company provides extensive engineering input to the university’s research
studies and concepts, with thorough theoretical testing and analysis in the digital
simulation environment. This is being done across many industries including
mining, manufacturing, renewable energy and agriculture – any segment that
requires challenging engineering.

Mr Soto comments that the company supports local industry through the efforts
of the i3Net Group in the Illawarra region but the focus remains nationwide to
increase their collaboration through tertiary education channels as well as discover
good engineers to enhance Soto Group’s own growth.

Soto Group has proactively developed relationships with tertiary
education bodies as well as quasi-government agencies to fill in niches by
offering suitable value propositions.

The highly respected body Engineers Australia, in its Innovation in Engineering
Report June 2012, expresses concerns over Australia’s limited level of
innovation, stating that in the absence of sustained innovation, the rate of growth
in labour-constrained economies will ultimately fall to zero.

The report also noted that ‘innovation can drive productivity
improvement across all industrial sectors. Many industries essential to the
economic growth of the country such as construction, mining, telecommunications
and manufacturing require significant engineering’. In other words, a strong
focus on engineered innovation in industries is the best way to increase
productivity and contribute to the economic prosperity of the nation.

A recent Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Report
titled ‘Strengthening Links between Industry and Public Sector Research
Organisations’ made the following, powerful recommendation:

‘That mechanisms be put in place to capture the benefits of research and
to direct research to problems of national importance including the support of
those industries providing employment to Australians, especially emergent
industries that will generate the next wave of employment.’

Mr Soto explains that having a ‘value proposition’ to give to a
university such as UoW or UNSW and any other tertiary body or think tank is a
distinct advantage. The company invests significantly in software and works
closely with software developers to the level where predictive capabilities greatly
reduce the risk. 

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