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Fathom Q: How do universities support maritime clusters?

fathom-news regularly asks industry experts opinions on key isues facing the maritime industry. 

This week we asked:  How do you see the role of universities in continuing the development of successful maritime clusters?

Professor R Ajit Shenoi, Director, Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute told fathom-news:

“Successful maritime clusters thrive on knowledge transfer. This can be new knowledge derived from recent research, or the introduction of existing knowledge from a different sector. In both cases universities, as knowledge factories and brokers can play a vital role. Moreover, universities are designed to create robust, high quality, trustworthy knowledge that in an era of ‘fake news’ is increasingly valuable.

Universities can also act as independent brokers, spaces where debates can be held and opinions voiced in a constructive manner. Of course, universities are only part of a successful maritime cluster. Academia has to be blended with industry, government and civil society in a quadruple helix to ensure the best chances of cluster success.”

Dr Mohab Abou-Elkawam, Senior Maritime Lecturer, Liverpool John Moores University, said: 

“Universities can contribute more towards the development of maritime clusters, however current research topics focus on the labour market, the exchange of knowledge, and new technology solutions in the maritime sector. This is largely due to The ability to procure limited funds on such issues.

Having said that, the outcomes of such research are not communicated to maritime cluster organisations in the UK as aspired for. This results in a creating a gap between research findings and maritime cluster entities including maritime policy and governance organisations both at the UK and the EU levels (which is becoming more vague after Brexit!).

Both universities and maritime cluster organisations need to do more to promote exchange of lessons & best practices to inform & serve the creation of a more viable network of maritime cluster organisations.”

Gordon Meadow, Associate Professor at Southampton Solent University, told fathom-news: 

“By working in partnership, industry, academia and policymakers can triangulate their thinking. The reality is that we need each other and also that long-term thinking is imperative given the rapidity and complexity of change today.

Thinking partners establish the sorts of foundations required to adapt to the future; by challenging each other’s thinking in how we prepare for that future. Also, academia is under a different type of commercial pressure, our drive, well at least at SSU, is in informing our students from a standpoint from which we can offer excellence, as well as creating impact through our research.

Academia is in a unique position, we are a hub and spoke of knowledge and expertise, but crucially we can address issues from an ethical and sustainable point of view.

Maritime clusters as a triangle, create the impact in the right way. The academic input is free to consider outcomes and impact from a less subjective standpoint. We need industry to drive forward maritime interests commercially, we need academia to consider the ethical as well as sustainable impacts to save money, make working safer, run more efficiently and consider better ways of doing things.

We need to policy makers to be involved in the journey and enforce the standards as they change.”

Image: The World Maritime University, Malmö, Sweden.


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