Industry-Sponsored Research Week
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Transition from corporate relations to corporate engagement requires teamwork, training


By David Schwartz
Published: January 23rd, 2018

As universities restructure, reconfigure and refocus their interactions with industry partners – with an increasing emphasis on maximizing company touch points — the corporate relations function in particular finds itself in a state of considerable flux.

One need only look at the spate of recent reorgs and re-namings of corporate relations offices to know that there is a significant shift under way. For example, Princeton University’s Office of the Dean for Research “revised the name from Corporate Relations to Corporate Engagement in 2016,” reports corporate engagement officer Spencer J. Reynolds Jr., “to more accurately reflect that Princeton wants to be engaged with companies in a comprehensive way, such as through research collaborations, student recruiting and other intellectual interactions.”

Under a recent restructuring at Indiana University, Bloomington, “the team dedicated to corporate and foundation relations, formerly at the IU Foundation, has become part of the Office of the Vice President for Research, as well as restructured and expanded,” a recent statement from the OVPR notes.

Similarly, the latest research enterprise annual report at James Madison University, Harrisonburg VA, notes that “since the arrival of a new Corporate and Foundation Relations director, the Office of Sponsored Programs has consistently shared institutional knowledge, reports and funding opportunities to advance both areas’ field of influence; monthly meetings yield a cross-pollination of information about researchers’ interests and activities and allow for close coordination of applications to private sponsors” — and that “provides faculty and staff with a cohesive overview and approach to seeking and managing funding.”

Curtis Hadley, associate director in the Office of Corporate Relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says the key to the evolution of the corporate relations function is this: “For the universities that listen well to their corporate partners, it is becoming a more holistic engagement with a single point of contact to manage and guide the relationship. Is there more overlap with the sponsored research and technology transfer functions? At the universities that value this model, yes.”

Coleen Burrus, director of the Office of Corporate Engagement and Foundation Relations at Princeton, agrees that “corporate engagement offices will continue to think of themselves in a more comprehensive way, focusing on research collaborations with industry but also seeing themselves as hubs or gateways to help companies navigate technology transfer, career services, sponsored research and advisory boards, for example.”

A detailed collection of articles on the evolution of corporate engagement efforts appears in the January issue of Industry-Sponsored Research Management. To subscribe and access the full report, along with the publication’s entire archive of practical articles focused on expanding and managing industry partnerships, CLICK HERE.   

CLICK HERE for a sneak peek at what's in the January issue of Industry-Sponsored Research Management

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