5 October 2023

Empowering Communities Through Academic-Industry Collaboration: Insights from ASEAN+3 Rectors’ Conference’s Session 1.1

AUN Writer Team

Written by Alistair Yap Yiow Zhoong, AUN Intern

On 20 September 2023, Day 1 of the 2-day 6th ASEAN+3 Rectors’ Conference hosted by Universitas Airlangga (Surabaya, Indonesia), was held at ASEEC Tower with 73 participants from ASEAN, China, Japan, and Korea. There was a sense of excitement in the air with participants ready to learn and share best practices and the latest knowledge with regard to advancing the quality of higher education, especially with this being the first in-person meeting after the Covid-19 pandemic, and where this is a once-every-two-years event. 

For the Session 1.1 panel discussion, the topic was on Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) Collaborative Framework in Sustaining Innovation and Industry Acceleration Ecosystem, with a sub-topic of Advancing Industry Linkages with Community Empowerment Oriented Mobility Programme Design.

This discussion aimed to support participants with ideas, directions, and strategies towards improving multi-sectoral collaborations between universities and external stakeholders such as the industry, the government, and the communities, with highlights on the role and potential of universities in sustaining innovation, accelerating industry growth, and empowering local communities.

The session welcomed:

  • Mr. Edy Saraya, General Manager, Semen Indonesia Group (SIG)
  • Prof.  Yasutomo Nasu, President, Okayama University, 
  • Andi Hermansyah, PhD, Lecturer, Faculty of Pharmacy, Universitas Airlangga


The first speaker was Mr. Edy Saraya, General Manager of Semen Indonesia Group (SIG), the largest cement producer in Indonesia, and a State-owned Enterprise (SOE). 

Mr. Saraya spoke about fostering collaboration between higher education institutions and state-owned enterprises towards creating sustainable innovation. He shared SIG’s commitment towards the SDGs across three pillars of Economic (Profit), Environment (Planet), and Social (People), in which achieving the harmonisation of this “triple bottom line policy” is a measure of SIG’s success in sustainable development. 

On the Economic front, SIG has to strive for excellent financial performance to support the company’s growth. On the Environment front, SIG has to manage and control any negative impact on the environment. On the Social front, SIG is committed towards making a positive impact on the local community. It believes in taking care of the local community and being concerned for its welfare and prosperity, vis-a-vis the success and growth of the company. Mr. Saraya said that the local community is part of the company, and as the company grows, there would be mutual benefits because when the community prospers, there would be increased economic opportunities for all. 

In particular, he highlighted one aspect of Social management which is the Community Involvement & Development (CID) based on ISO 26000 Social Responsibility standards. Among many highlights of SIG’s CSR programme for 2022 - 2023 was a Sustainable Innovation Collaboration Programme among the Ministry of SOEs, 31 SOEs (of which SIG was the leader), and Universitas Airlangga. It was an Islamic Boarding School-Based Entrepreneurship Education called Pesantrenpreneur based on the Creating Share Value (CSV) approach which addresses social challenges as part of SIG’s core strategy to achieve higher market capitalisation and competitive advantage. 

Pesantrenpreneur involved the training of trainers for 26 caretakers and Islamic boarding school educators, the provision of learning and business assistance in every Islamic boarding school, the monitoring and evaluation of the successful implementation of vocational programmes, and the reporting to the Ministry of SOEs for review and improvements. The programme was a huge success where 21 Islamic boarding schools have superior businesses and products, 23 Islamic schools implemented the training materials, and 444 Islamic Boarding Schools (beyond the original target of 390) received training and assistance. 

This goes to show the positive impact that can be created when SOEs collaborate with other stakeholders, and it highlights the potential for the generation of a much more positive impact through inter-organisational collaboration. 


The second speaker was Prof. Yasutomo Nasu, the President of Okayama University, whose speech was titled “Human Resource Development Programme in Collaboration with UNCTAD, and the Role of Academia for Comprehensive Strategy for the Vision of a Digital Inclusive Nation.”

On the panel topic of “Advancing Industry Linkages with Community Empowerment Oriented Mobility Programme Design,” Prof. Nasu shared two projects in cooperation with international and regional organisations. 

1. An MOU between Okayama University and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to implement short and long-term programmes for students and researchers in ASEAN countries and African member countries of UNCTAD, the first memorandum signed between the UN body and a university in the world.

The short-term programme is the "Joint Research and Training Course for Young Female Scientists from Developing Countries", a 2-week to 1-month joint research and training course for female scientists under 40 years. The UN selected this programme as a leading example of a global initiative that addresses the gender gap in the field of Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI). This result was published in a report and displayed at an exhibit at the UN Headquarters in May 2023. Through this human resource development programme, Okayama University not only seeks to close the gender gap in the field of STI but also contributes to the development of communities and societies of the countries involved.

2. Open Innovation and Entrepreneurship Framework “BIZEN” (Business Innovation Zone for Entrepreneurship)

Okayama University recognises that digitalisation is the key to solving social issues and has a positive generative function. Towards this end, it believes that digitalisation can play a central role in the ecosystem of accelerating digital transformation, particularly in rural areas.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has put a significant cost on our society, it has also facilitated the change of social norms in various areas backed by digital innovation. For example, the digitalisation of work practices and the transition to remote work, which motivated and enabled people to relocate themselves from overstressed urban areas to rural areas. In light of this, it is crucial to unleash the full potential of digital technology to revitalise local communities by making the most of their unique characteristics while addressing the common challenges, thereby making these areas even more vibrant and thriving than the urban areas.

Okayama University, a leading national university in promoting the SDGs, is equipped with a system that enables seamless implementation from basic research to social implementation on hospital premises. Such a system includes its open innovation and entrepreneurship framework BIZEN (Business Innovation Zone for Entrepreneurship), which promotes industry-public-academia co-creation, as well as with its Okayama University Hospital with a 152-year history. 

Based on this system, the University is now playing the central role in materialising one of the Digital Garden Health Special Zones, which is promoted by the Government of Japan as a part of its National Strategic Special Zones and focuses on solving local health and medical issues, including an ageing population and declining birthrate. There, local digitalisation and regulatory reform are strongly promoted through collaboration among municipalities. In this Special Zone project, Okayama University tries to, for example, (i) enhance the emergency system through reinforcing the role of paramedics, (ii) build a system to collect and transmit biometric information using non-invasive devices and to use AI to assist the transportation of patients using the knowledge from the collected information, (iii) promote preventive medical services based on maternal health checkup information and create a PHR (personal health record) that is useful for child rearing and the subsequent pregnancy, both obtained through digitisation of maternal and child health handbooks.

Apart from this Special Zone project, the University also tries to contribute to extending healthy life expectancy in its local area by utilising Okayama University Hospital as a research and development platform for healthy community development and health-related innovation. For example, it has established a core medical device development centre to promote open innovation and commercialisation. 

With such a system and efforts, the University is now shifting its focus from inner to outer places with a view to driving a healthier future not only in the specific local region but also all over Japan.


The third speaker was apt. Andi Hermansyah, PhD from the Faculty of Pharmacy, Universitas Airlangga, who spoke about Implementation Science (IS), particularly on navigating the highs and lows when it comes to filling in the gaps between research and practice. There were three items on the agenda: 

  1. Making sense of implementation science
  2. Learning from past experience
  3. The Strategies towards a versatile university-industry-community linkage. 

Before that, Dr. Andi highlighted the importance of implementation science. There was an introduction of a system of care called the Collaborative Chronic Care Model (CCM), where research concluded that CCM shows a significant positive impact at no increased cost to the healthcare system. Moreover, CCM for bipolar disorders had begun to be endorsed by national clinical practice guidelines in the USA and Canada. Therefore, by right, there should be a good uptake of the CCM. However, a year after the end of the studies, it was found that none of the 15 sites had adopted the CCM into their operations. 

Continuing on the first agenda, Making Sense of implementation science, Dr. Andi shared that we can use frameworks and theories to help us maximise the success of new changes. They offer an efficient way of generalising findings across different settings and guide implementation by covering the determinants of implementation, the selection of the right strategies, and the contextualisation of results. 

For example, Roger’s Diffusion of Innovation reminds us to consider the long uptake process after something new has been introduced. The theory is presented in the form of a bell curve which states that there are only 2.5% Innovators, 13.5% Early Adopters, 34% Early Majority, 34% Late Majority, and 15% Laggards. The population exists on a spectrum where only 2.5% are ready and excited to take the leap and adopt new technologies and implementations, before the take-up rate gives way to a rapidly accelerating rate, which then slows down all the way until the last 15% of the population finally adopts the particular technology when all other people have done so already. 

Another note-worthy model is the PARIHS framework - Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services. It argues that successful implementation of evidence into practice is determined by the context where the new evidence is introduced (a friendly environment that supports the adoption), the way in which it is introduced (high facilitation), and the quality of the evidence (high evidence). If any of these three factors is missing, a successful implementation would be challenging. 

With that, Dr. Andi moved on to the next agenda of learning from past experience with the examples of:

  • The Pharmapreneur Development Center (PPDC)
  • The Medication Therapy Management (MTM) Project

The Pharmapreneur Development Center (PPDC) began in 2010 to support fresh pharmacy graduates in starting their own pharmacies (where previously only 30% of pharmacies were owned by pharmacists). The project received funding from the World Bank to establish a community ecosystem of pharmapreneurs. The relevant IS takeaway from PPDC is to work with Innovators (per Roger’s Diffusion of Innovation model) as these participants have an appetite for risk and an openness to new ways of doing things, which facilitates the successful adoption of innovation. The challenge lies in how to screen for such Innovators. In the case of PPDC, 11 applicants were selected from 40 applicants mainly from their business plan and why they were willing to take the risk. 

The Medication Therapy Management (MTM) Project was inspired by Professor Umi Athiyah's research on the Pharmaceutical Care Process. Subsequently, Dr. Lisa Aditama further developed and re-introduced it as MTM. In 2019, the National Health Insurance Agency adopted it, particularly for Chronic Disease management. The uptake was high and more than 700 pharmacists across the nation have implemented it with no significant additional costs. However, the programme generated no significant payment to maintain its sustainability. Nevertheless, MTM served as a leverage for future success stories such as the development of a research platform on transforming research into practice. 

Finally, Dr. Andi shared the Strategies towards a versatile linkage:

  • IS is multidisciplinary and we cannot work alone. Collaboration is key
  • We have to have a shared agenda among stakeholders
  • Use the practical, robust implementation and sustainability model to understand contextual influences on implementation and scale-up
  • Enabling and guiding adaptations to promote end-user acceptance
  • Building capacity for quality improvement

Overall, all three speakers shared salient and inspiring insights and practices on collaborations with the wider community and the positive impacts that could only be attained through such synergy. It was clear that for universities to grow and to support local communities, collaboration is the path forward. Among many points shared, participants walked away with greater awareness of how to avoid the pitfalls of rolling out new initiatives, a reminder of returning to the roots and heart of research — to improve the lives of those in the community, and a reminder that the pursuit of sustainable goals is not a side pursuit but something that is core to the success of a company.