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Research University Hof: Research marketing as part of a 3rd pillar

Since last fall, Hof University of Applied Sciences has had a new staff unit: Research Marketing. How this decision came about and what tasks are performed there are presented below.

Anne-Christine Habbel, Head of Research Marketing at Hof University of Applied Sciences
Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences

According to the current Higher Education Act, the basic tasks of a university are research, teaching, studying and continuing education. The upcoming Bavarian higher education reform will focus on a total of three pillars: Teaching and research are the first two pillars and completely new to this as the third pillar is the so-called “Third Mission”. The 2019 target agreement between Hof University of Applied Sciences and the Ministry of Science already stipulates that the university should use its existing research activities to sharpen its own profile, and for this reason is already in the process of building up the third pillar to promote research transfer. This early approach reflects the implementation of the ministerial guidelines at Hof.

Third Mission

Third Mission, this new third pillar alongside teaching and research, aims to take the activities of science even further out of the academic sphere and into the wider society. Hof University of Applied Sciences has interpreted this approach for itself in such a way that “the university’s range of services is increasingly brought to the regional economy in order to be able to carry out even more cooperation projects (target agreement with the ministry).”

This is intended to further expand the ongoing transfer of knowledge and projects between the university and business. It simplifies companies’ access to the university and, through and with the university, they can more easily find new project partners and tap into their know-how.

In other words, the aim of the new department is to draw attention to the activities of researchers at Hof University of Applied Sciences more intensively and with new formats. By the way, this works internally hand in hand with the university communication.

The new research marketing of Hof University of Applied Sciences at a glance; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences

A university of applied sciences is by definition close to the pulse of the users and thus also located outside the scientific ivory tower. This approach is to be deliberately further strengthened. In addition, the university shows where the concrete benefit of the projects for later users lies or whether this can perhaps even be raised by a start-up. Nowadays, most funding bodies demand this practical relevance of research projects anyway.

More outward-looking

Why is it that the university is now trying to present itself more strongly to the outside world and has even created a new brand, ” Die Forschende Hochschule Hof” (in English, by the way, the translation sounds much nicer and shows the regional connection: “Home of Research” in reference to the well-known “Home of Films” in Hof).

In fact, research at Hof University of Applied Sciences has become increasingly important over the past decade. The founding of a first institute in 2010 (information systems) was followed by three more institutes on materials science, water and energy management, and biopolymer research. In addition, a Fraunhofer Application Center for Textile Fiber Ceramics was created. This shows that the university attaches great importance to its technical disciplines – and not only in teaching. It sees these as important building blocks for being perceived as an innovation driver in the region

Not only have regional research projects been won, but increasingly also federal projects, often initiated together with regional politics. In 2020, around fifty research projects were running in Hof, a new record number.

Anne-Christine Habbel, Head of Research Marketing

And now in concrete terms?

In the five research institutes, various pilot ideas on research marketing have already been successfully tried out: They work hand in hand with industry and its associations, politics, and multipliers and stakeholders. Many events for a wide variety of target groups provide new impetus and ensure an intensive exchange between business and science, thus ensuring that the results of research are well communicated to the outside world.

This transfer in particular is in great demand externally. But conversely, science naturally also wants to know more precisely what drives and is needed by industry. The practical experience of the companies and their new questions always bring new impulses to science.

For this reason, the various scientific or interdisciplinary congresses of the institutes also play an important role (Nonwovens Days, IT Forum Upper Franconia, Bioplastics Symposium, Energy Symposium). Because without this cross-fertilization, there is no research. The new central research marketing builds on these approaches and bundles all five research institutes equally under the umbrella brand “Die Forschenden Hochschule Hof“.

All channels, new formats

All social media channels on the topic have been uniformly renamed “Die Forschende Hochschule Hof” and other old (e.g. newsletter) and new formats are being played out. For example, interviews with experienced professors and young scientists from the institutes have recently taken place, which can then be experienced as web talks, e.g. on the topics “German Headache Register” or “Innovative Biogas Plants”, and provide further background information

Anne-Christine Habbel, head of research marketing, at the webtalk with Dr. Andy Gradel;
Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

These innovative young minds “burn” passionately for their topics. The majority of them also completed their studies at Hof University of Applied Sciences

“We have been able to create a better level of education in teaching via the research activities of the professoriate. Very good graduates can become involved in research and thus gain in-depth qualifications before moving into the business world, and in individual cases they can also earn a doctorate. And the first of our doctors have now taken the step from business back into science and are enriching our college as professors. I see this as very positive.”

Prof. Dr. -Ing. Valentin Plenk, Vice President Research and Development;

After completing their research and perhaps even earning a doctorate, they then go on to become academically qualified, for example, in the development departments of companies in the region. Or they are infected by the Hofer founder gene and immediately start their own company in Upper Franconia. The new research marketing is a central service facility for the internal research institutes and at the same time the first point of contact for external interested parties. If the latter have new ideas for research approaches that have not yet been tested, they are in exactly the right place here.

The new staff unit is located under the Vice President for Research and Development, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Valentin Plenk, who tackled the issue of “research professorships” as one of his first official acts. Following the guidelines of the Ministry, he strengthens research by offering experienced researchers at Hof University of Applied Sciences the chance to reduce their hourly teaching load

Fewer teaching hours mean a stronger focus on research projects, which in turn benefits the local economy in the form of projects via research marketing.

Anne-Christine Habbel

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