Industry-Sponsored Research Week
University-Industry Engagement Advisor

Ohio State spinoff helps universities evaluate strength of industry partnerships


By David Schwartz
Published: September 21st, 2021

A detailed article on UNITE’s system for ranking the strength of university-industry partnerships and moving more of them in a strategic direction appears in the September issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here. 

UNITE, a consulting company spun out of The Ohio State University, is built around a data-driven technology tool that assigns a value based on the strength of corporate relationships, helping engagement professionals better manage their portfolio of industry partnerships.

Before coming to Ohio State, Chris Svec, co-founder of UNITE, had seen the other side of the coin while working with Nationwide Insurance. “I was hired to create a holistic corporate engagement office, and at the end of the day I realized there was a systemic problem with universities — the challenge of engaging with companies and [understanding] how they work, not only externally but internally,” he explains. “We (Svec and UNITE co-founder Christy Bertolo, who was his colleague in corporate engagement) took our backgrounds working in relationship management and built a system on how to work with companies.”

The “missing link,” he asserts, was the technology tool they built that enables universities to put a value on their partnerships. Following the collection of data, the tool analysis is expressed in a graph showing where the relationship falls (the “partnership trajectory”) in a continuum from “cultivating” to “strategic.”

“We thought we had something,” Svec continues. “We sat in the commercialization office and put Post-it notes on whiteboards. Folks in the office asked what we were doing, and they said, ‘You have something; you should consider filing an invention disclosure on it.’ We did that; we worked with compliance [to see] if we could actually sell it to universities, and here we are.”

UNITE has licensed the technology from the university, and it is now “an Ohio State portfolio company,” Svec shares. “We have the exclusive rights, as creators and inventors.”

“My background is in economic development,” adds Bertolo. “This is all about economic development — [boosting] the workforce and making the state stronger and more competitive” by improving industry engagement.

In discussions with university corporate relations leaders, “when we got to the university, all people talked about were scorecards — ranking company over company,” Svec recalls. “That seemed backwards to us. It’s not an issue of which company is better, but how a company is growing on its own trajectory.”

The UNITE “scoring” system, he continues, was built with the idea in mind of using three key factors as its basis — advancement numbers, research data, and hiring. Beyond that, depending on the individual university, a total of up to 25 other variables may be used. “For example, there’s student engagement,” he notes. “We work with the university to define what they mean by that. Or, it could be organizations, or capstones.”

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Goldman Sachs launches “10,000 Small Businesses Fellows” program to match students with employers


By David Schwartz
Published: September 21st, 2021

Giant investment bank Goldman Sachs has launched a workforce development program that matches college students with small businesses struggling to hire workers during the pandemic. continue reading »

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Webinar tomorrow: Critical Issues in Due Diligence and Freedom to Operate Analysis for University IP


By David Schwartz
Published: September 21st, 2021

Intellectual property due diligence and freedom to operate (FTO) analyses can be critical to assessing potential licensing transactions and can be equally important for start-up investors. These analyses are also key factors in developing patent prosecution strategies for new disclosures. However, due diligence and FTO analyses can often be sheathed in a cloud of mystery because of the broad scope of issues involved and the inherent variability in the information they uncover. In addition, the potential for spiraling costs from poorly devised or conducted inquiries can further confound the process.

Critical Issues in Due Diligence and Freedom to Operate Analysis for University IP, scheduled for tomorrow, September 22nd, is a practical and detailed webinar featuring patent attorney Jonathan B. Roses of Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks. He will demystify due diligence and FTO inquiries by explaining not only what they explore, but also how they are best conducted. 

Attendees can expect to gain an understanding of why and when these activities are required, what information they can yield, and how to distinguish issues that are critical to the analyses from those that are simply “nice to have” or even unnecessary for a given project. For complete details or to register, click here.

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Loma Linda U, OmniLife partner to drive innovation around organ transplantation


By David Schwartz
Published: September 21st, 2021

Loma Linda University Transplant Institute and OmniLife, a communication and collaboration platform for the organ donation, transplantation, and research community, have launched  a research partnership to drive innovation around transplant graft selection and acceptance, specifically with the goal of reducing waitlist mortality. continue reading »

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Auburn to expand Industry 4.0 research and training with $7.2M DoD award


By David Schwartz
Published: September 21st, 2021

Auburn University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Advanced Manufacturing Systems (ICAMS), flush with a $7.2 million award from the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Office of Industrial Policy’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) Program, will be expanding its work to encourage small and medium-sized manufacturers to adopt the advanced technologies associated with Industry 4.0, or smart manufacturing. continue reading »

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Strategic University-Industry Partnerships and Holistic Corporate Engagement report features 25 case studies


By David Schwartz
Published: September 21st, 2021

Strategic University-Industry Partnerships and Holistic Corporate Engagement is a 98-page resource that’s chock-full of proven success strategies for using a holistic approach to expand your valuable industry relationships.

It features 25+ case studies on how to structure, manage, and grow your collaborations beyond one-off deals and embrace a vision — and a set of best practices — for expanding partnerships to touch every area of the university, from research and talent development to philanthropy and corporate training.

Strategic University-Industry Partnerships and Holistic Corporate Engagement is available now in digital format for immediate delivery, and a print version is also available. Click here for complete details.

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U Maryland Medicine and Vibrent Health partner on precision health initiative


By David Schwartz
Published: September 21st, 2021

University of Maryland Medicine and health tech company Vibrent Health are collaborating to create the All of Maryland Precision Health Initiative, a digital platform to study how genes and other factors affect health. The long-term aim of the research is to be able to tailor treatments to patients’ individual health profiles, leveraging Vibrent’s experience developing the NIH-sponsored All of Us Research Program, which launched in 2018. continue reading »

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Three public universities land “historic” philanthropic gifts


By David Schwartz
Published: September 21st, 2021

It was a big week for three public universities: Iowa State, the University Of Oklahoma and the University Of Massachusetts each landed private donations of historic proportions. And the gifts are clear reminders that alumni are often the best prospects for philanthropic engagement. continue reading »

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Strong communication among campus units enhances strategic industry engagement efforts


By David Schwartz
Published: September 14th, 2021

A detailed article covering a broad range of strategies for communicating effectively with on-campus partners to enhance corporate collaborations appears in the September issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here. 

No corporate engagement department is an island (apologies to John Donne). While the creation and implementation of campus-wide projects and initiatives aimed at strengthening industry partnerships most often resides within the corporate engagement office, few of these undertakings can be pulled off without the enthusiastic participation of many other departments or units on campus. Key to that participation, engagement experts agree, is effective communication with those units. 

“This speaks as a whole to how we engage — how everything fits in together,” says Leah Aschmann, director of corporate relations in the Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations at Rice University. “We make a very deliberate attempt to have regular interactions and communications with campus partners, and whenever there are projects or strategic initiatives, we make sure to share.”

“One thing we do is coordination,” adds Paul Nkansah, PhD, senior director of corporate partnerships with Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures. “We have frequent meetings as a group with the principals of different corporate engagement offices throughout the university, typically every quarter, to share notes and exchange ideas about different activities. Part of the meeting is to seek improvement, to challenge all of us to do better, and maybe change processes.”

For example, quarterly meetings are held with the philanthropy team. “From those quarterly meetings we try to identify areas of synergy,” he says. “If we need communication with alumni, we try to meet and develop and devise a plan.”

The communications department is another example, he continues. “We always want to make sure what we do is articulated in way that helps commercialization,” he says. “We engage with the ‘comms’ team across our entire office, and we put together our annual report, which involves many communication folks.” 

Nkansah adds that getting these other units on board is a pretty smooth process. “It’s very collegial; I never find a situation where you struggle to convince someone to work with you, as it’s mutually beneficial,” he explains. “The more I do, the more I bring along more opportunities [for them].”

The approach is similar at Rice. “Anybody and everybody on campus who engages with companies gets together quarterly,” says Aschmann. “It’s co-hosted by my office and the Center for Career Development and the Office of Research — the three main legs of the corporate relations stool.” Usually 40 to 50 people attend, she adds. 

“It’s been a great way of engaging different groups on campus that you may not see regularly,” Aschmann continues. “We have a standing monthly meeting with deans of engineering and natural sciences and meet every other month with the provosts. We also send representatives to meet monthly or quarterly with the different institutes on campus. Other programs have corporate membership meetings, and development officers from other units. It’s a very deliberate effort to make sure there are regular communications.

 “There’s always something we don’t know, so our office is all about transparency,” she continues. “If you work with campus partners who will share all the information they have, you can make a more informed decision to move a program forward.”

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U of Maryland and IonQ create quantum computing lab in $20M partnership


By David Schwartz
Published: September 14th, 2021

The University of Maryland and a leading quantum computing company are partnering on new quantum lab on the College Park campus, with their sights on be becoming a national center for research and innovations in the field. continue reading »

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Accessing Technical and Business Assistance (TABA) Funding for SBIR/STTR Companies 


By David Schwartz
Published: September 14th, 2021

When submitting an SBIR or STTR Phase I or Phase II application, you could be leaving a significant amount of money on the table.

TABA is a new program that gives SBIR/STTR companies funding over and above the SBIR/STTR grant to use for commercialization assistance services. The application process can be complex, and the program is still a mystery to many TTOs and research offices, but this workshop will reveal the details and offer practical insights into the TABA funds now available to SBIR/STTR Phase I and Phase II applicants.

We’ll cover the primary purpose of TABA funds, what funds can and cannot be used for, how to engage with a TABA vendor, and how to ensure your application includes this little-known additional funding stream. Join Kristen Parmelee, President of the Parmelee Consulting Group, Inc. for this detailed distance learning program: Accessing Technical and Business Assistance (TABA) Funding for SBIR/STTR Companies, scheduled for October 19th.

This program that will outline how different federal agencies participating in the SBIR/STTR program want you to request the funds, how much is available for applicants, what supporting documentation is required, selection of providers of TABA services, and how to ensure your SBIR/STTR companies don’t miss out on this extra non-dilutive cash. For complete details or to register, click here.

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Wichita State aviation research center gets Boeing plane to convert for air freight industry


By David Schwartz
Published: September 14th, 2021

WERX at Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) has received its first Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft, which it will convert into a freighter for an industry client. continue reading »

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