Mobile Communication

Managing cooperation with local universities

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Managing cooperation with local universities


Nokia, a world leader in mobile communications, started to manufacture its products in China in the mid-1990s. In 1998 Nokia established its Nokia China R&D centre in Beijing. Almost simultaneously, the company started to work with local universities. Since then the Finnish company has built seven R&D units in different Chinese cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Chengdu. It has a wide range of cooperation ventures with local universities (Vaario, 2005):

  • sponsoring university research projects for emerging technology;

  • scholarships, innovation funds, equipment, conference participation;

  • transfer of knowledge and technical training;

  • subcontracting projects;

  • joint national projects (863 and NSFC) as a non-funded partner, EU projects;

  • academic information exchange;

  • internship positions and joint post-doctoral programmes.

In general, Nokia does not have joint research labs with local universities. Joint research projects remain the main form of cooperation at the technical level. Through these different cooperation activities, Nokia helps local universities to develop through exposure to cutting-edge technology and international trends; in return, the company's high visibility helps it to receive high-quality contributions from talented local scientists. To date more than 60 projects have funded more than 100 researchers and students, leading to more than 100 publications (Vaario, 2005).14 Due to their innovative and win-win character, the following two cooperation endeavours need to be highlighted in more detail.

In response to strong demand, Nokia offers training and seminars on mobile application development for university teaching staff and students. Currently, six universities in Beijing follow the programme and more universities from other locations will join in future. This kind of training promotes and transfers specific, practically relevant knowledge and competence that Chinese universities lack. Simultaneously, Nokia benefits from the increasing number of skilled application developers. Three universities have already developed several mobile applications.

Nokia also provides a knowledge innovation fund at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications for graduate students' research and thesis work, promoting and enhancing innovation consciousness and performance. It is not only very helpful for Nokia to identify young talent, but it also generates a positive PR effect at a personal level. Nokia's experience is summarised as ‘little money for Nokia, but a big impact on an individual’ (Vaario, 2005: 11).
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