* By Dr. ManWo Ng *
With the maritime industry facing pressing challenges worldwide – from operational to environmental – it is critical to look for solutions, everywhere possible. In recent years, I have witnessed a surge of maritime start-ups looking to provide answers. They have made significant contributions and have served as one of the key resources for the industry. One alternative place that has been left unexplored is in the non-profit sector: academia, or academic research in particular. But is there anything useful to find?
Academic (maritime) research, unfortunately, tends to have a reputation of being theoretical in nature, and seemingly not very useful in practice. This perception is further exacerbated by the specialized language used in academic studies. Personally, as an editorial board member on various academic journals, I have to admit that a good amount of research I assess for suitability of publication is indeed not practice-ready (yet). But from my experience working with the maritime industry, I can also say that there is research that can be very useful in practice. Of course, the key is to know where to look for these hidden treasures of practice-ready studies. (Sometimes this can feel like seeking for a needle in a haystack.) Equally important, one must be able to decipher these studies in order to translate them into solutions that will add value to a company.
In the last few years, I have had some positive experiences in translating academic research into solutions for industry challenges. With this and other forthcoming articles, I hope to encourage industry and academia to explore opportunities for synergies. Using my own research in maritime analytics, I will illustrate what can be done. It is not my intention to claim that academia can solve all challenges facing practitioners, but my experience tells me that sometimes academia and industry can achieve amazing results together.