How academia can collaborate with industry

10 March 2015 by Roy Meijer

Not all academic and industrial organizations and scientists are aware of the possibilities and pitfalls of industrial-academic collaboration. The most important factor is a willingness of industrial and academic collaborators to understand and respect each other’s core objectives, Jack Pronk, professor at Delft University of Technology, states in the March issue of Nature Biotechnology. Together with colleagues in the field of biotechnology, he gives recommendations for successful initiation and execution of collaborations.

Pitfalls

It is widely recognized that interaction of industries with the knowledge base of academic science is very important for the advancement of technology. ‘However, not all academic and industrial organizations and scientists are aware of the possibilities and pitfalls of industrial-academic collaboration’, biotechnologist prof. Jack Pronk and his colleagues from South-Korea, Sweden, Denmark and the USA write in Nature Biotechnology.

Different objectives

Pronk and his colleagues identify and discuss different modes of collaboration between academia and industry, like consultancy, contract research and public-private partnerships, together with the respective pros and cons for both parties. ‘Any academic-industrial collaboration should start by acknowledging the different primary objectives of the partners. Academia’s core mission is to educate highly trained, independent scientists and to carefully align and integrate their education with ground-breaking fundamental research. Industry’s primary objective is to generate profit for shareholders, often through innovation and practical use of advanced technologies. Failure to recognize and accommodate these different objectives will, at best, cause friction and wasted time. At worst, it may result in a complete failure to meet objectives and withdrawal from further collaboration.’

Success

Pronk and his co-authors give six recommendations for successful initiation and execution of collaborations:

  • Openly discuss intended benefits, requirements and risks for both partners.
  • Consider which mode of collaboration optimally fits joint objectives.
  • Negotiate professional contracts on IP (Intellectual Property), confidentiality and publication procedures.
  • Retain full transparency within the academic research group about the terms and conditions of the collaboration and instruct scientists and students on the importance of confidentiality and IP rules.
  • Monitor progress in the project frequently and communicate about alignment with joint and individual objectives.
  • Build relationships grounded in mutual trust and respect; acknowledge and celebrate successes, learn from mistakes.

Respect

‘However, the most important requirement for mitigating risks and reaping mutual benefits is a willingness of industrial and academic collaborators to understand and respect each other’s core objectives and to actively seek options to optimally align these in joint research activities’, Pronk emphasizes again.

More information

How to set up collaborations between academia and industrial biotech companies,  Jack T Pronk, Sang Yup Lee, Jeff Lievense, John Pierce, Bernhard Palsson, Mathias Uhlen & Jens Nielsen, Nature Biotechnology 33, 237–240 (2015), doi:10.1038/nbt.3171

Contact and the complete article: Prof. Jack Pronk, +31 15 27 83214, J.T.Pronk@remove-this.tudelft.nl, http://staff.tudelft.nl/en/J.T.Pronk/
Science Information Officer Roy Meijer, +31 15 27 81751, r.e.t.meijer@remove-this.tudelft.nl

© 2017 TU Delft

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