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University-Industry Engagement Week

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Insights on university-industry engagement outside major metro areas

Writing on her consulting firm’s blog, Laura Schoppe, founder and president of Fuentek, LLC, provided a summary of some key ideas offered at UIDP’s recently held “U-I Engagement Outside Major Metropolitan Areas” workshop held at the University of Arkansas.

She cited local economic development as a major theme among attendees, noting a common challenge of attracting and retaining good talent at the university, in the community, and at companies. “One frequently discussed tool for achieving these goals is research parks.

This begged the question: What helps a research park be successful?

While conventional wisdom holds that faculty and grad students are the major draw for companies, Schoppe says companies are now just as interested in undergrads. “It appears that a research park’s success increases when undergrads are there too,” she notes.

Her own observation of the NC State Centennial Campus illustrates that point, she says. The campus grew slowly in its first couple of years, and “the turning point came when the engineering school was moved onto the research park campus. Having the students there created a vibrant atmosphere that attracted more companies. That energy has continued to grow as more dorms and restaurants open on the campus,” she says.

In the sponsored research arena, Schoppe noted that in resource-constrained offices it may be necessary to prioritize in terms of effort made. “Some partnerships are complex and require concierge-level support. Others are more transactional, where concierge service would be an inefficient use of resources,” she says. “By recognizing the difference, you avoid unnecessary over-investing. Give strategic partnerships priority on concierge services. At the same time, look for opportunities to expand an existing transactional relationship so that it can grow into a more strategic partnership.”

Schoppe also noted the importance of aligning incentives around industry partnership. “An organizational structure that separates the TTO from the sponsored research office and the university’s Foundation (and so on) can get in the way of establishing partnerships,” she points out. “If the different groups have different databases, it’s difficult to share information. Beyond the technical issues, turf issues can make offices disinclined to share — they want to own and control the relationship with the partner.”

To overcome those issues, she advises setting up “metrics and performance rewards to encourage cooperation. For example, allow the Foundation to get credit if it helps an engineering department secure sponsored research.” 

Source: fuentek

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week