Heather Alexander and Julia Page
Julia Page, Chief Executive Officer, veski

By Julia Page, Chief Executive Officer, veski 

As an innovative organisation veski draws on its international networks for knowledge, inspiration and advice. An important part of my role as chief executive officer is visiting our international connections and learning how innovators in other countries operate.

During late May and early June, a whistle stop tour of Europe had me visit Holland and Scotland to meet with a range of veski stakeholders. I had the opportunity to listen to, and learn from, their best practices.

In Holland, my focus was on visiting the University of Twente and their innovation campus Kennispark. In Scotland, my visit centred around Interface and catching-up with their inspiring leader Dr Siobhán Jordan (our 2015 veski resident) providing me with a unique opportunity to observe the Interface team in action and spend time with some of the larger Scottish tertiary institutions.

One of my key takeaways from spending time with the Interface team and several of their stakeholders was the importance of the face-to-face engagement – the personal approach to gain a true understanding of the challenges faced by SMEs. The team play an invaluable role in unpacking and interpreting these needs and sharing them in a language to engage academia in providing an array of solutions (often approached through a different lens) for the SMEs’ consideration.

Siobhán and her team arranged meetings for me across Scottish universities, providing me with the opportunity to learn more about how the universities embrace the independent service that Interface offers and the importance it plays in brokering that initial relationship between an SME and an academic partner.

I believe, having met with several academics who regularly engage with Interface, that one of the success factors is the willingness of academics to collaborate with SMEs; whether it’s driven by their internal incentives system, for the sheer passion of changing the world [see last month’s Interface blog with Professor Bill Buchanan], or by utilising the case studies prepared by Interface to assist individual academics in demonstrating the impact that their knowledge engagement is having.

I also had the opportunity to learn a little more about The Royal Society of Edinburgh and in particular their Enterprise Fellowships.

Nothing compares to the experience of seeing and feeling how an organisation operates in person, and by spending time in both Holland and Scotland I was able to observe first-hand how innovative organisations, addressing localised needs, approach many of the challenges and opportunities open to veski in Australia.

Plenty of food for thought…

11 August 2016