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Academia-Industry Collaborations Are Crucial for Designing Future Experiences 

Academia-Industry Collaborations Are Crucial for Designing Future Experiences

From user experience (UX), academic research and corporate UX maturity to social extended reality (XR) and responsible design in the metaverse, EPAM and CHI Nederland’s first “Experience and Beyond” research conference, hosted at the end of 2022 at our EPAM Netherlands office, had it all. The event, which brought together academic, industry and research experts from across various organizations, underscored the critical role that collaboration between academia and industry plays in driving innovation and responsible design. Here are three key takeaways from the event:

1. Working Together Establishes a Talent Pipeline

Collaborations between industry and academia have the potential to complement each other, as they create a talent pipeline that provides training and professionalization opportunities that would not be accessible by either party alone. Hiring trends in UX research indicates that a considerable number of individuals are already employed in both industry and academia or have transitioned from one to the other. For instance, industry professionals may teach classes for universities, while academic researchers, such as those studying human-computer interaction (HCI), may provide consulting services for businesses, offering opportunities for cross-pollination of skills and ideas. According to Dr. Amulya Tata, Senior User Researcher at YouTube, “I wish I had known about all the research tools that we use daily at companies when I was a PhD student.” By building partnerships between academia and businesses, industries can create a talent pipeline that offers unique opportunities for growth and development.

2. Involve Stakeholders

UX maturity measures an organization’s willingness and capability to successfully deliver user-centered design. This includes assessing the quality and consistency of research and design processes, resources, tools and operations, as well as the organization's commitment to supporting and enhancing UX now and in the future through its leadership, workforce and culture. According to Stefan Manojlović, User Researcher at Spotify, “Become besties with your data scientist colleagues to complement one another’s skills to reach the same goal.” Miro’s Bo Liu, Senior Researcher, and Eduardo Gomez Ruiz, UX Research Manager, also spoke about how their UX research team shapes product strategy with mixed methods research to understand business priorities and build effective partnerships with stakeholders.

3. Ensure Safety, Privacy & Health

As we look into the future of user experience, it is important to monitor Web3 and metaverse, as they have the potential to revolutionize the way consumers buy products and transform experiences from click-to-buy to experience-to-buy. However, it is equally important to ensure that these experiences are safe, private and healthy for users. EPAM’s Dr. Alexandra Diening, Global Head of Research and Insights, and Manuela Scherer, Senior UX Researcher, appealed for a responsible metaverse, “We should build the metaverse collaboratively and responsibly to ensure our safety, privacy, and mental and physical health.” By building partnerships between academia and industry, companies can ensure that new technologies are developed in a responsible manner that considers the well-being of users.

What Will Future Experiences Look Like?

During the conference, we asked speakers and audience members to provide their views on the future of experience. Attendees highlighted the importance of diverse, inclusive and accessible experiences that are “going beyond just visual design,” according to Maya Alvarado of Or, as Dr. Ujwal Gadiraju of TU Delft explained, experiences that are “technology-augmented and research-empowered, lowering the barrier of participation.” Accountability and privacy were top of mind for Eduardo Gomez Ruiz, who mentioned that the future of experience will be “private by design and super transparent,” while Stefan Manojlović stated that it will be “fluid, cross-disciplinary and very fun.” TNO’s Dr. Sylvie Dijkstra-Soudarissanane sees interconnections, describing an “immersive and non-obstructive communication and experience, linking the physical, digital and virtual world.” Future experiences look to be diverse, immersive, and human-centric, highlighting the importance of building them cooperatively and responsibly.

Combining Academia & Industry

The first Experience and Beyond event was a success in part because of the spirit of collaboration that was present everywhere at the event. When academia and business work together for mutual benefit, great things can happen. The ongoing cooperation between academia and industry, which has already proven crucial for ensuring UX maturity, has the potential to foster and advance innovative solutions to real-world problems, benefitting not just businesses and universities, but users everywhere.


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