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Hybrid Exchanges Bring Together Business and Academia

Hybrid Zone X focuses on new ways research institutions and businesses can exchange ideas with shared impact.

Crossroads image from Thinkstock


Spin-offs. Patents. Technology transfer.

These terms often describe the outcomes of mixing academia and business. But they don’t tell the whole story about how research institutions and industry can benefit from more productive interactions.

This is where WID’s Hybrid Zone X (HzX) Director Carrie Pagliarini sees tremendous opportunity.

Carrie Pagliarini

Carrie Pagliarini

“Traditionally, academia and business have been distinct communities with seemingly foreign cultures and fairly minimal overlap,” Pagliarini says, “but many of today’s challenges warrant a more transdisciplinary approach to addressing their complexity.”

Expanding on WID’s culture of intellectual connectivity, Pagliarini leads new HzX’s “Exchange” events that yield unconventional collaborations — and potentially entrepreneurial ventures — at the interface of research and business.

Exchanges convene business executives, entrepreneurs, scientists and technologists for a substantive discussion of a topic of broad relevance, with a heavy emphasis on integrating the working styles of disparate disciplines and industries in a way that preserves the rigor and authenticity inherent to each culture.

One previous Exchange centered on the life and death of companies and explored parallels between the life cycles of organisms and those of organizations. The next Exchange in November 2014 examines the opportunities, complexities and societal implications of working with big data and open data.

WID researcher, math professor and author Jordan Ellenberg engages with HzX from the academic side and says there’s much to gain.

“Traditionally, academia and business have been distinct communities with seemingly foreign cultures and fairly minimal overlap, but many of today’s challenges warrant a more transdisciplinary approach to addressing their complexity.”

— Carrie Pagliarini

“Within the university, there’s a huge benefit to interdisciplinarity, where different academic disciplines have different habits of mind and habits of action,” he says, “but perhaps even greater is the difference between the habits of mind and habits of action between people who are inside of the university and those who are outside of the university in the private sector — people who are often working on some of the same problems or those with overlapping content.”

It’s these overlaps and exposure to diverse styles of thinking that drive HzX.

“Today’s global culture is tremendously productivity-oriented,” Pagliarini says. “But we’re often not purposeful enough about seeking out a rich variety of inputs to shape the thinking styles that influence our work. Increasingly, in our consumer-driven society, the mental space to think deeply and to engage at a meaningful level is a scarcity.”

HzX Exchanges address this scarcity, she says, by selecting complex and relevant themes in coordination with WID Director David Krakauer that provide a striking mix of intellectual inputs to prime day-long discussions.

“HzX Exchanges aren’t anything like a typical ‘lessons learned’ workshop or ‘latest and greatest’ industry conference or a meeting of fairly like-minded thinkers,” Pagliarini says. “We’re intentional about bringing inquisitive minds together and creating the conditions for them to use their intelligence and imagination. We don’t narrow the Exchange by prescribing one explicit outcome.”

Hybrid Zone X Exchange

At Exchanges, groups work on problem-solving and co-authoring a “hybrid publication” together.

Instead, Exchanges are greenhouses for collaborative grants and ventures, with insights and opportunities captured in a collectively authored “hybrid publication” that will be circulated as an input to shape the marketplace in coming years. These publications share the expertise of their various contributors and are entrepreneurial “hybrids” in their own right.

For some, exposure to Exchanges are one way to adapt a rapidly connected world view.

“WID people and programs have an uncanny way of helping me come to new insights by connecting seemingly disparate facts into something new and whole,” says journalist Marc Eisen, who attended an HzX Exchange last December. “Considering how we all fall prey to ruts and habits of thinking, the WID cross-disciplinary approach is unique. It shines light on new passageways to understanding culture and science in a world where the old boundaries between the two are dissolving.”

Marianne Spoon




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