The Engineering Advisory Committee Subcommittee on Industry-University Partnerships issued a report, Encouraging Industry-University Partnerships, that recommends strategies to strengthen National Science Foundation efforts to promote industrial partnerships that advance research and support technology innovation.
From the Summary of the Report:
The Engineering Advisory Committee's Subcommittee on Industry-University Partnerships (EAC-UIP) was convened in the Spring of 2007. The group first conducted a workshop to study the landscape of partnership programs at NSF (plus DARPA and NASA) and identify best practices. This was followed by an analysis of NSF's current portfolio of partnership programs, which examined funding levels, the relative roles of small and large industry, and where partnerships fit along the “innovation supply chain” (discovery-to-commercialization process). We also reviewed the National Science Board's decision to discontinue industry cost-sharing as part of a larger moratorium on cost-sharing, and submitted a recommendation to them that industry investment be reinstated by the Foundation.
All members of the Subcommittee believe that industry investment in NSF-funded research is of long-term strategic importance and should be encouraged. Requiring or endorsing industry contributions helps incentivize academics to form partnerships outside the academic environment. It also sends an important message to the public about the project's relevance – and that industry and government are both vested in R&D.
Our discussions identified several issues that make university-industry partnerships challenging. From these, the Subcommittee formulated the following recommendations to the Engineering Director:
- Expand existing partnership programs so as to better fill the university-industry landscape.
- Pilot new partnering programs that address the remaining gaps in the university-industry landscape.
- Expand mechanisms to motivate/reward industry financial investment in NSF-sponsored projects, by extending matching-funds supplements to other ENG programs.
- Continue participating on the National Academies' UIDP, and do whatever possible to expedite the release of software to assist in negotiating partnership IP.
- Take a more proactive role in making companies more aware of the benefits of investing and participating in NSF-sponsored research projects.
- Mount an awareness campaign with the goal of helping companies understand NSF's partnership programs.
- Take a proactive role in making faculty aware of the benefits of seeking and participating in partnerships with industry.
- Mount an awareness campaign with the goal of helping university administrators and faculty understand NSF's partnership programs.
- Champion, within NSF, the need to offer many different types of university-industry partnership mechanisms – and encourage the broader adoption of partnership mechanisms so that they are available to a much wider cross-section of faculty researchers.
- Continue monitoring the progress of all university-industry partnership mechanisms, Foundation-wide, and periodically re-assess them to ensure that the number and type of opportunities meet the diverse needs of academic and industry constituencies.