Applied research opens a new dimension in which TAFE providers can extend the impact of their industry contacts, energy, discipline knowledge and training know-how.
Applied research is activated when a TAFE industry client – large, medium, small, micro or startup – identifies a problem or promising idea and seeks TAFE’s participation in responding to it.
Applied research concentrates on technical challenges, business process bottlenecks and service delivery inefficiencies. It may also be concerned with designing high quality training programs that overcome such problems, including examining what constitutes best practice in teaching and learning. But it’s the challenge, the bottleneck, the inefficiency, the idea in a business setting that is the flywheel of applied research.
Applied research harnesses the skills and knowledge of TAFE teachers to devise solutions in collaboration with an industry client. The benefit for TAFE students is becoming active participants in resolving a live problem in their industry of study. This scenario means they can apply what they already know and can do, develop new skills, make a difference. It’s a scenario that fosters engagement, boosts learning outcomes and lifts career opportunities.
Applied research can be a particularly valuable TAFE service to startups and to small and medium sized businesses. Businesses of this size often confront problems that need solutions in a shorter time than a detailed, long term research program can provide. Smaller businesses rarely have the financial resources to invest in long term research, and rarely have the staffing resources or capability to oversee a research program.
TAFE knows how to work with business of all sizes and all stages of development. Applying that sound understanding to collaborative applied research problem solving and idea development is an essential pathway for successful applied research.
The engine that moves along that pathway has a number of moving parts that are less familiar and need further crafting. Key among those unfamiliar moving parts are:
Some TAFE teachers are already active in applied research. Sometimes it goes under other names, like prototyping, or tinkering, or applied commonsense. The great opportunity for TAFE is to grow applied research expertise across the sector and to share it for the benefit of our students and the industries we serve.