Industry-Sponsored Research Week
University-Industry Engagement Advisor

Not into esports? You may be missing an opportunity for industry engagement


By David Schwartz
Published: June 8th, 2021

A detailed article on the growth of esports and the opportunities it presents for university-industry collaborations appears in the May issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here. 

Looking for new opportunities to create successful collaborations with industry? How about esports? What’s that, you say? You’re really not that familiar with esports — and besides, what do they have to do with U-I partnerships?

Those answers and more were provided in an esports session during the recent UIDP 2021 virtual conference, “Esports: What Will it Take to Build a Roadmap for U-I Collaboration?” If you think the idea is far-fetched, consider that esports is already a billion-dollar enterprise at the collegiate level. A large number of universities have already caught on; the “League of Legends” includes membership of about 400 universities.

And yet, on many campuses esports operate in the shadows, at best. “Generally, higher education leadership does not have a good grasp of what gaming and esports even means,” asserted Kurt Melcher, executive director of gaming and esports with Intersport, an organization that provides marketing solutions, business strategy, investment intelligence and original production services to brands, publishers, leagues, teams, universities, and investors. “There’s a little detachment from how it is to the core customer — students.”

The gaming industry, he continued, “is massive — twice the size of music, box office. Every metric we’ve seen shows a ‘hockey stick’ trajectory.”

Melcher, who one panelist referred to as “The Godfather of collegiate esports,” noted that while there’s no single way to address the esports market, that represents an advantage rather than a challenge. “It’s massively fragmented — different publishers, platforms, brand initiatives,” he noted. “The opportunity lies in broad application across many different verticals on campus — there’s a research component, technology, design components.” Many university leaders, he said, “do not have a great understanding of that potential.”

But a growing number of major companies do understand, and therein lies part of the opportunity in industry engagement. “One of the things we look at in evaluating every opportunity — is the program sustainable?” posed Sierra Reid, esports program manager with Intel Corporation. “We do not want to come in, put on a logo, drop off hardware, and ‘peace out’ — we leave. Want an in-depth, high-impact partnership.”

That partnership, she continued, can go beyond hardware or dollars. “There are so many other resources — mentorship, internships, and wealth of knowledge just to be in this space,” she said. “It’s a new space for lots of people; we’re in it over 15 years and there are insights we can pass on to help develop programs, and [to help] students if they want to pursue the space when they graduate. It’s a key pillar to look for.”

How does a university with an esports team attract industry partners? “Obviously, it takes trust, and some time to build,” said Mark Deppe, director or UCI (University of California Irvine) Esports, whose team has an arena on campus. Deppe was selected to serve as the inaugural commissioner for the North America Scholastic Esports Federation, helping connect learning to student interests, and now serves as Executive Director of National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE).

“You can’t build a perfect partnership right away. Start small, a logo on a jersey, a lunch, [an industry rep] sitting on a panel. If you try to put together a 10-year massive package with someone you’ve just met, it will not work.”

Today, he shared, UCI has a leadership board the sponsors sit on, and regular engagement. “I developed a business school internship where MBA students meet bi-weekly with sponsors, but that’s taken five years to build,” he noted. “Now we have a phenomenally smooth communications structure where marketing efforts are aligned.” Again, he reminded the audience that you must start small. “Start the relationship, even if it’s a little bit of hardware. If it’s a great relationship it will grow, but if you’re set up for an ‘explosion’ it will disappoint,” he cautioned.

“Our belief in a holistic strategy really does work with engaging company and university,” added Anne O’Donnell, senior executive director of corporate relations at UC San Diego and the panel moderator. “We may start with a marketing person. But if I ask about R&D people, or recruiters, I can begin to start weaving a conversation around whether this company would like a lot of other aspects of our esports and gaming, like diversity and inclusion. As a professional corporate relations officer, you can weave a story that’s a pretty compelling proposition for a company.”

“From the university side, the true asset is the talent — the students and faculty, investment in research — all those elements,” added Melcher.

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NSF’s Partnerships for Innovation program adds new supplemental funding for patent expenses


By David Schwartz
Published: June 8th, 2021

In a new “Dear Colleague” letter, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced new supplement funding to cover certain patent expenses incurred for universities participating in its Partnership for Innovation (PFI) program. continue reading »

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Non-Disclosure Agreements in University Research and Commercialization: Drafting Strategies for Maximum IP Protection


By David Schwartz
Published: June 8th, 2021

When working with collaborators, potential licensees, investors, and others outside the university, poorly drafted NDAs can put your valuable IP in grave danger.   

In academia, NDAs are used to protect patent rights from public disclosures that threaten patentability. But just as importantly, NDAs used in partnerships, co-invention, licensing discussions, and investment negotiations prevent others from co-opting your researchers’ valuable innovations. In a worst-case scenario, you can literally lose the rights to the patent, as has been made painfully clear by the courts in recent cases.

Given the huge stakes, it’s imperative that universities understand the implications of a poorly drafted and executed NDA — and make sure these documents anticipate every twist and turn along the way. That’s why Tech Transfer Central is hosting this detailed and practical webinar: Non-Disclosure Agreements in University Research and Commercialization: Drafting Strategies for Maximum IP Protection, scheduled for June 24th. Our patent attorney-TTO executive faculty team will discuss NDAs, their use in academia, and the key legal issues around compliance and enforcement.

For complete program and faculty details or to register, click here.

Also coming soon:

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U Calgary partners with IT giant on quantum computing center


By David Schwartz
Published: June 8th, 2021

An India-based global IT giant is partnering with the University of Calgary to create a center of excellence for quantum computing. continue reading »

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ResoluteAI launches global database of STEM faculty to accelerate research partnerships


By David Schwartz
Published: June 8th, 2021

Science research platform ResoluteAI has released what it’s calling the Resolute Research Network (RRN), a comprehensive global database of key opinion leaders (KOLs) in STEM fields. The network aggregates the research interests, biographical information, awards, and publications of over 230,000 academic faculty from more than 350 universities and research institutes around the world. The searchable database can highlight connections between faculty and their patents, clinical trial work, and co-authors. continue reading »

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International Collaborations and IP Protection


By David Schwartz
Published: June 8th, 2021

To help universities tap into the growing international opportunities for sponsored research deals and partnerships — while also ensuring key issues surrounding IP and other contract terms are appropriately addressed — Tech Transfer Central’s Distance Learning Division has created International Collaborations and IP Protection, an exclusive collection containing over three hours of expert advice, immediately implementable takeaways, and cost-saving solutions on this critical topic — even more critical today as international teams work to address the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what’s included in this high-value collection:

  • Session One: Best Practices for Safeguarding University IP When Structuring Deals in China
  • Session Two: Building International Sponsored Research Collaborations: Navigating Culture, Contracting, Compliance, and IP Protection
  • Session Three: Best Practices for Cost-Effective Filing of PCT and EPO Patent Applications

For complete program and faculty details and to order, click here.

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MD Anderson inks research and licensing deal with Nucleix for lung cancer assays


By David Schwartz
Published: June 8th, 2021

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has struck a research and licensing deal with liquid biopsy company Nucleix a liquid biopsy company revolutionizing cancer treatment to evaluate and develop methylation assays focused on lung cancer. continue reading »

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Electromedical Technologies and Nazarbayev University expand research programs on ‘electroceuticals’


By David Schwartz
Published: June 8th, 2021

Electromedical Technologies, Inc., a Scottsdale, AZ-based developer of bioelectronic devices, has expanded its research agreement with Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev University. Newly added research programs will study how electro-modulation communicates to cells by modifying intracellular signaling events and altering physiological cellular response. continue reading »

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Registration now open for UIDPConnect 2021  


By David Schwartz
Published: June 8th, 2021

Registration is open for UIDPConnect 2021, UIDP’s latest virtual conference, to be held September 13-18, 2021.  The event features 50 sessions presented by hundreds of subject matter experts over five days. Actionable insight, case examples, and inspiring guidance are delivered through panels, keynotes, short talks, and interactive breakout sessions.

Your entire organization can attend UIDPConnect 2021 for one low, institutional access rate. Attendees will benefit from a diverse agenda with real-world applications for everyone on your team — from research administration to contracting, workforce development, and government engagement. Click here to learn more.

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NSF program offers grad students funds for industry training


By David Schwartz
Published: June 1st, 2021

A detailed article on NSF’s INTERN program appears in the May issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here. 

There’s nothing like learning about a program from folks who have participated in it. That’s precisely how a webinar at the recent UIDP 2021 virtual conference, entitled “NSF INTERN Program: The User’s Perspective,” was designed. University and industry representatives shared their experiences with the program, which they say has proved immensely successful in bringing together talented student researchers and interested corporations in collaborations of great benefit to both partners. The program, launched in 2017, has to date involved more than 800 students.

Here’s the way it works: Host organizations generally include industry labs or R&D groups, start-ups or small businesses, but they can also include government agencies and national laboratories; policy think tanks; and non-profit organizations. The students receive a maximum total cost budget of $55,000, which can cover stipend, tuition, fees, travel, and temporary relocation. It includes $2,500 for materials and $2,500 for PI travel and co-mentoring. The maximum internship duration is six months.

Much of the discussion centered on the partnership between The Center for Advanced Design and Manufacturing of Integrated Microfluidics (CADMIM), an NSF Industry-University Cooperative Research Center that includes the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and the University of Illinois at Chicago (two NSF base awards), and industry partner Danaher Corporation. CADMIM has sent five students to companies and plans to send four more this year.

“You need to already have a strong, active NSF award (as UCI and University of Illinois at Chicago do), because it is a supplemental program,” explained Gisela Lin, PhD, deputy director of the CADMIM I-UCRC at UCI, who moderated the session. “Before you can start you have to get the NSF program manager‘s approval of the base award and explain how this internship will be synergistic with the base, as well as approval from the faculty PI — especially if relocation is required.”

Together with the company, she continued, you should define the Scope of Work (SOW). “What will the intern do? Is there potential IP generation?” she posed. “Get final approval of the SOW from the company and from the PI.”

In addition, she noted, if confidential information is to be shared with the intern, the sponsor should execute an NDA. Any other company-mandated documents, she added, also should be signed by the intern. “Do you need to sign something just to enter the company building? Execute an NDA with the intern,” she advised. Any IP agreements, she continued, must be signed by the university, and not the PI. And international students need a CPT (off-campus work authorization). (A detailed description of the program is offered in a letter from NSF here.)  

Danaher’s involvement with INTERN grew out of “a long, great partnership” with UCI, said David Yang, the company’s principal innovation manager. “I was with Beckman Coulter (a Danaher company) when I started to get involved with UCI, which is 15 minutes away,” he related. “In 2018-19 I moved up to the diagnostics platform and focused on looking for cross-operating company opportunities. We were in a great position to help train students — part of our corporate citizenship is the training of the next generation of scientists and engineers. So, when Gisela brought up the opportunity, we took the first three interns.” Yang still serves as an industry mentor in the program.

Based on prior experience with UCI, Yang said he “knew we were getting great scientists.”

With the INTERN students, he wanted to focus on areas that complemented what they were already doing. “We wanted to identify clear, current problems that they had relevant information for, and clear goals,” he explained. “The students were assigned mentors, and we carved out ownership areas, so they were empowered to get work done.”

The students were also educated in the Danaher culture of “daily management,” which involved multiple touchpoints to understand where roadblocks were. “They did not know the culture, or who to talk to,” Yang said. The internships ended with a formal report prepared by the interns, another of the best practices he identified.

Interestingly, the areas the students were tasked to focus on “really did not have as much to do with science or engineering as with communicating user needs — understanding the voice of customers [VOC],” said Yang. “At least two or three mentors focused a lot on VOC — speaking with clinicians, doing quantitative surveys, building hypotheses and then getting feedback. That’s exactly what we needed at the stage we were trying to focus on — understanding what the marketplace needed for specific areas.”

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University-Industry Engagement Advisor offers 3-month trial subscription


By David Schwartz
Published: June 1st, 2021

If you’ve ever thought about becoming a University-Industry Engagement Advisor subscriber, now is the perfect time. For the first time ever we’re offering a chance to try us out – and see the value of this one-of-a-kind publication for yourself – with a 3-month subscription at the incredibly low price of $27 (this offer is for new customers only).

Every month this practical, strategy-packed newsletter is filled with success stories, case studies, and expert guidance on forming and managing long-term corporate partnerships. And now with this low cost, 3-month $27 subscription option, you can see first-hand how our editors delve into the many aspects of corporate partnership development and management that are crucial responsibilities of corporate relations and industry engagement professionals in universities worldwide. 

Plus: As a subscriber you gain immediate access to our entire archive of past issues, filled with hundreds of best practices and success strategies – it’s an instant library of expert guidance you can turn to immediately. It’s all included. For complete details or to take advantage of this offer, click here.

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U Minnesota inks master research agreement with Cisco in record time


By David Schwartz
Published: June 1st, 2021

A new collaboration between University of Minnesota researchers and Cisco Systems that seeks to advance cutting-edge data technologies offers a benchmark for getting deals done in short order. From the start of negotiation to funds dispersed – including a master research agreement to govern the partnership – took just three months.

Cisco, the computer and telecommunications giant, has already funded six projects with more to come through its research arm, Cisco Research, which connects company engineers and researchers with academic research labs. The projects span the subjects of technology for health care, ethics in artificial intelligence, and edge computing.

Brett Schreiner, corporate relations officer with the University of Minnesota Foundation, said the range of expertise Cisco was seeking made the University a good fit for the collaboration.

“Cisco is looking to be on the cutting edge of new technology and the University of Minnesota has numerous faculty and researchers that cross technology with health care, AI, security and privacy, systems and networking, and the list goes on,” Schreiner said. “All of these areas interest Cisco as they look to position themselves and their industry positively for the future.”

UMN Technology Commercialization and the foundation’s Corporate and Foundation Relations team routinely work together to identify opportunities for new or expanded industry collaborations. Last year, they launched the Industry Engagement portal to help companies navigate the many research areas and connect more easily.

In February, Cisco Research reached out through the portal regarding potential research sponsorship, with a budget to spend but also a deadline to meet. It had to spend the funds by the end of April, meaning everyone involved had to work fast to line up projects and get a research agreement signed.

Leza Besemann, senior manager of marketing and corporate engagement with UMN Technology Commercialization, quickly sent out a call for research proposals, and over two dozen ideas came in. “UMN is a large university with faculty and staff researchers across all the areas of expertise Cisco is interested in,” she said. “Because we are so comprehensive and there are many cross-disciplinary research teams, our researchers were able to respond with creative project ideas.”

After hearing a series of short presentations and follow-ups, Cisco decided on the six projects it would fund. At the same time as the proposals came in, UMN and Cisco were working to negotiate a master research agreement, with set terms that save precious time needed to meet Cisco’s funding deadline.

The final agreement was modeled around the University’s Minnesota Innovation Partnerships (MN-IP) program, which provides a range of options that reduce the risk and cost a company might face when sponsoring research and licensing any intellectual property that results from it.

In total, the entire research agreement and funding process took just three months. For Ramana Kompella, PhD, Cisco research head in systems and networking, it was a pleasant surprise to get the master research agreement set up and signed so quickly. The team is already looking for other collaboration opportunities.

“University-industry partnerships are not always easy to set up, as they are often subject to various laws and regulations that make for intellectual property transfer from university to industry an extremely tedious and arduous process,” he said. “We found University of Minnesota a fantastic place to collaborate and partner, with their extremely industry-friendly and forward-looking MN-IP initiative, which lays out an awesome foundational framework for us to foster a win-win collaborative agreement.”

Source: University of Minnesota

Take an in-depth look at the University of Minnesota MN-IP program in this detailed distance learning program New Models of University-Industry Partnership: U Minnesota’s “MN-IP Create” and “Try and Buy” ProgramsClick here for details.

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