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Collaboration between students and companies generates valuable knowledge

Collaboration between students and companies generates valuable knowledge

At the Department of Chemistry and Bioscience at Aalborg University, all students get the opportunity to collaborate with industrial companies or other external partners once or more during their education. This kind of partnerships provides valuable advantages for the students, the company and the department itself.

The department works to integrate external collaboration when the semester topic allows for it. This is an explicit part of the department strategy of educating students that are sought-after, valuable world citizens. Niels Thomas Eriksen, Vice Head of Department and Head of Studies, explains:

We aim to prepare our students optimally for their future work and provide a framework for their collaboration with companies that take the interests of both sides into account: The students fulfill their learning targets, the companies gain new knowledge or results from experiments performed, and our researchers develop their professional networks. In addition, companies may use student collaboration as a recruitment process in which they can identify potential future highly skilled employees.”

Valuable knowledge exchange

One of the researchers for whom this kind of collaboration is an integrated part of teaching, supervision and often also his own research projects is Associate Professor Morten Lykkegaard Christensen, who specializes in process engineering, especially membrane technology. He explains:

Within my field of specialty, we have a very close relationship with industry. Both because the Danish companies within the field are very active within R&D and want access to the latest research at the universities, but also because this allows us insight into industrial challenges and problems that can be relevant for integrating into our research,” he explains.

Depending on the nature of the project, the students can either spend the semester at the company premises or work at the department’s laboratories on the company’s challenge and visit the company for meetings, presentations and workshops.

Grundfos gains new knowledge

One company that regularly collaborates with students from the department is Grundfos. Director of Technology Innovation Flemming Hedegaard says:

In our department, we work to develop future solutions on current societal problems. As such, we often involve students in relevant projects. This gives us new perspectives on the projects we are working on and new ideas for alleys we need to investigate in our product development

In the fall of 2021, one such project, focusing on water treatment using membrane technology, was headed by Senior Water Technology Engineer Bruno Kiilerich. He says:

Collaborations such as this enable us to look thoroughly at new angles and potentials. In this project, the students shared their time between our premises here and the laboratories at Aalborg University where they carried out experiments with water samples from us. In this way we get access to laboratories that are different from the ones we have here, and so we can test things that we would not otherwise be able to. In addition, we get a detailed, scientific description of the experiment and the technologies tested, which we can include in our future decisions on which direction to take with our products.”

At Grundfos, they value the chance to collaborate with students, and they aim to have a number of applied research projects with students every year – not just to gain new knowledge but also to assess potential new employees, Flemming Hedegaard explains:

Practically every single project gives us value through new knowledge that brings us further in our own work. An added value is that such collaboration projects enable us to identify new talents that we may wish to recruit once they graduate, so they are a very effective recruitment channel as well. “