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Help a PhD student in return for dedication and innovation

Business community on PhD collaboration

It really pays off to help a student who wants to train as a researcher in collaboration with a company. Students, the university and companies are all excited about the possibilities in the industrial PhD scheme. Among others, Novo Nordisk have harvested good experience, and after hosting many industrial PhDs, the message from the company is clear: Go for it!

Knowledge-thirsty brains don’t have to lock themselves up at university for three years to achieve the title ‘PhD’. Working with a company, students can spend half of their degree programme out in the real world on an industrial PhD. The students, the university and the companies are extremely pleased with the scheme.

- The industrial PhD scheme provides opportunities for closer collaboration with some of the best research groups relevant for Novo Nordisk at Aarhus University. Partnerships with leading research institutions – and training talented young researchers through them – is absolutely pivotal if Novo Nordisk is to drive innovation and creativity forwards in the future, says Chief Scientific Advisor at Novo Nordisk, Peter Kurtzhals.

Special resources

In 2019, 32 of the 654 PhD students enrolled at Natural Sciences and Technical Sciences at Aarhus University were working on an industrial PhD, and many students stress the benefits of being able to get out and use their academic competencies in the real world. Companies also appreciate the scheme, because an industrial PhD gives them something very special, says Mikkel Kongsfelt, CEO of RadiSurf.

- RadiSurf can recommend the industrial PhD scheme 100 per cent. It’s a unique opportunity to get development to flow a little more strongly through a company. Companies are challenged by their limited time to focus on development, and company researchers are busy people who are always being interrupted by new projects. An industrial PhD gives us an employee dedicated to development and with focus on new solutions, he says.

At the same time, the training collaboration opens doors for knowledge sharing, explains Stephan Bouman, who is the Fellowship Project Manager at Novo Nordisk.

- It’s also extremely important to collaborate with universities. Neither we, nor a university can do things alone when we’re talking innovation. Good ideas and state-of-the-art knowledge often come from the academic world, while knowledge about development needs and product needs and application possibilities usually lies in companies. That's a win-win for everyone, he says.

Foundation grants for collaboration

Twenty-one companies were part of an industrial PhD In 2019. Novo Nordisk has a total of approx. 40 industrial PhDs employed, among others in collaboration with Aarhus University and the University of Copenhagen. The pharmaceuticals company urges even more PhD students to come out of the university and embark on a company collaboration.

- It’s a pity there aren’t more PhD students on an industrial PhD, or who decide to start some other sort of collaboration with a company as part of their project. According to the statistics, a lot of PhDs find a career in the private sector rather than in academia, and an industrial PhD will always have the advantage of previous insight into the business community. They have an understanding of the academic world as well as business, explains Stephan Bouman.

Employing an industrial PhD is unlike any other employment. The scheme allows the company to apply to Innovation Fund Denmark for subsidies for the industrial PhD student's salary and travelling expenses. The university can also receive funding from the foundation for the PhD degree programme, as the student is enrolled at the graduate school at Aarhus University as well.