Industry-Sponsored Research Week
Industry-Sponsored Research Management

NJIT assembles custom teams to address industry’s specific problems


By David Schwartz
Published: June 27th, 2017

Innovators at the Newark-based New Jersey Institute of Technology have two pathways to industry sponsorship: the traditional connections that result in externally funded basic research and, for the last three years, a separate infrastructure dedicated to building teams to respond to specific problems identified by industrial partners.

The New Jersey Innovation Institute, a shared services model NJIT corporation, leverages the research capabilities of a network of strategically organized “Innovation Labs” and an overlapping network of “coreLabs,” or functions that cut across industries, to connect researchers with corporations. In addition, says NJIT President Joel S. Bloom, NJII operates its own Enterprise Development Center (EDC) and a Center for Manufacturing Systems; it also hosts the Polymer Processing Institute Inc. and runs an unmanned aerial vehicle airport in Cape May. That connected web of opportunities for academia and industry to work together allows NJII to engage its researchers in all four stages of innovation: ideation, project selection, product development and commercialization.

The key, Bloom says, is getting industry to identify specific problems and commit resources, after which NJII assembles the intellectual and technological resources to form a response team. “We do that in a manner that is customized to best achieve the desired outcome,” Bloom comments.

Project teams, he adds, can include:

  • NJIT faculty and students;
  • researchers from other universities;
  • employees from the industrial partner;
  • leaders from innovative start-up companies; and
  • other economic development organizations or NJIT’s own EDC.

To assemble the needed expertise, Bloom says, NJII “has access to and makes use of NJIT’s robust physical, programmatic and intellectual resources, including labs, equipment and partnerships.” And when necessary, he stresses, “NJII identifies a sector-wide challenge and invites external partners to participate. This often includes other universities joining with us to solve the problem by shepherding a solution through the entire cycle of ideation through commercialization. Our research and development teams and industry are connected from concept to market.”

He adds: “We are unique in our formation and role as a not-for-profit in pursuit of economic development and in our agility in transforming intellectual capital into commercial success.”

All told, Bloom says, sponsored programs will account for nearly $60 million in fiscal year 2017 expenditures. “This figure reflects a 100% increase since NJII was formed in 2014,” he notes. “Not only has NJII doubled the scope of impact by NJIT’s economic and technology development mission, it has been more productive as well. NJII leverages about $13.50 in external funds for every $1.00 of NJIT support, which represents a more than a three-fold increase since NJII’s founding three years ago. It does this work while aligning NJIT and its partner institutions more effectively with the needs of industry.”

A detailed article on NJIT’s team-based approach to working with industry appears in the June issue of Industry-Sponsored Research Management. For subscription information and a free sample issue, CLICK HERE.

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