The pace of change in data and analytics technology has accelerated. Technologies quickly move from university research projects into new commercial products and services.  Many tech organizations scramble to keep up. Successful insights service providers see academic collaboration as a competitive differentiator. And, that collaboration goes well beyond setting up a booth at a jobs fair. Academic collaboration fuels innovation, and can give a jump start in identifying hot emerging technologies and even hotter new recruits.

Insights service providers can’t do it alone.  They augment or complement existing assets and offerings by creating insights services ecosystems through technology and services partnerships, data sourcing, investments and/or acquisitions and academic collaboration. While partnerships provide capabilities to enhance key areas of the engagement, collaboration with academics and research organizations allow service providers to keep a finger on the pulse of emerging technologies and ensure a pipeline for data and analytics talent.

Wave Criteria Included Academic Collaboration

The recent Forrester Wave: Insights Service Providers Q1 2017 included academic collaboration as one of the evaluation criteria for strategy. These collaborations took many forms from endowed chairs and funded professorships to curriculum development and co-teaching to joint research. Selected examples of these types of collaboration include:

  • Joint research. These collaborative initiatives combine real-world use cases with emerging technologies.  For example, the Accenture and MIT Alliance in Business Analytics combines Accenture’s industry and analytics expertise and MIT’s scientific and technological leadership. More than 20 projects have solved real-world business problems. In another example, KPMG and a team at the University of Amsterdam has explored the application of location analytics and blockchain-like technologies to enable federated analytics a multi-domain ecosystem.
  • Endowments, fellowships and internships.  Many insights service providers support teaching and research through funding for professors and students. Deloitte, for example, is a founding member of its Institute for Business Analytics (IBA) program at Indiana University, with similar investments at University of Maryland, University of Texas, and Virginia Tech. The Accenture Open Innovation university grant program brings 14 leading university researchers in North America, Europe and Asia together with Accenture to explore innovative solutions to business technology challenges & produce impactful results for clients. And, KPMG sponsors a Masters of Data and Analytics in Accounting at Villanova and Ohio State, financially supporting students who enter the universities’ graduate programs, offering summer internships and placement with KPMG’s audit practice upon completion.
  • Curriculum development and challenges. Through co-development of curriculum and sponsorship of academic competitions, insights service providers spark interest among university students, and harness student talent to address complex and pressing problems. Capgemini, in collaboration with Paris-Saclay University, supports the Data Science Game, an association that promotes the development of data science and skills and attracts over a hundred participating universities. Atos sponsors the IT Challenge, set up in 2012 to encourage and develop talent. Participating teams have uncovered winning ideas for the Olympic Games, connected cars and connected living. The challenge for the 2017 will focus on blockchain.
  • Recruiting. Last but not least, all insights service providers actively recruit at the top universities. Deloitte Analytics strategically targets 50+ top universities specifically for recruiting specialized analytics and data science talent. Atos collaborates with over 90 of the tier one universities worldwide, a program that resulted in the recruitment of 12,000 graduates and 3200 interns and apprentices in 2015.

These are only a few of the numerous collaboration initiatives collected through our Wave process. And, we haven’t even touched on the results. That’s a story for a full report.