Guiding Principles for Industry-University Collaboration

Corporations and universities are two key players for the successful performance of innovation ecosystems in prosperous regions of the world. Understanding and developing the enabling conditions to establish solid collaborative relationships between Industry-University is an imperative.

According to the Report of a Joint Project of the National Council of University Research Administrators and the Industrial Research Institute, there are 3 key principles for the success of collaborative initiatives between universities and companies. Not surprisingly, these principles are in accordance to the proposed MIT REAP systematic framework.

Guiding Principle # 1: A successful university-industry collaboration should support the mission of each partner. Any effort in conflict with the mission of either partner will ultimately fail.

While universities focus on the education of students, the creation and dissemination of knowledge; companies seek to create greater value for investors by creating new products and services, and to compete for their leadership position in the market. The relationship between companies and universities doesn’t take traction because each party tends to concentrate on achieving its own objectives and ends. 

It is necessary then that companies and universities are committed to the fulfillment of the mission of the other. Universities need to propose projects and programs that contribute to the creation of wealth and financial viability of business organizations, as well as the development of products, services and technology that allow companies to achieve a better competitive position in the market. Companies, on the other hand, need to commit to the training of talent, as well as providing resources and direction to cutting-edge projects and programs that universities can implement. Establishing this virtuous circle could lead us to establish a successful innovation ecosystem.

Guiding Principle # 2: Institutional practices and resources should focus on fostering appropriate long-term partnerships between universities and industry.

The result of an isolated project between a corporate department and a university professor is good news. However, successful long-term industry-university relationships need to go beyond individual transactions. The value of a long-term relationship can be more than the sum of individual transactions. If companies and universities wish to potentiate a true collaboration, they need to align procedures and operational conditions that not only respond to the achievement of a particular project, but also promote in a broad and holistic way the long-term successful relationship between those institutions. Change in perspectives on the benefits of collaboration is a fundamental aspect.

Guiding Principle # 3: Universities and industry should focus on the benefits to each party that will result from collaborations by streamlining negotiations to ensure timely conduct of the research and the development of the research findings.

If the relationship between two parties does not create value for both, the relationship cannot be sustained over time. Companies and universities need to perceive and measure the result of collaboration. The relationship must offer observable and measurable benefits for each party. The only way for the relationship to grow is to propose and take actions that ensure positive results for your partner. Universities and companies must ensure timely satisfaction of the each other expectations.

In sum, companies and universities should focus on three things: 1) support the mission of each other; 2) promote institutional practices fostering long-term relationships among them; and 3) act to benefit to each party.