Industry-Sponsored Research Week
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Fine-tune policies to better support student-industry collaborations


By David Schwartz
Published: April 13th, 2021

A detailed article on policies and practices surrounding student-industry collaborations appears in the April issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here. 

What are the recognized best practices among university industry engagement offices when it comes to student-industry collaborations? How are contracting agreements structured? How are fees charged? How is IP handled?

The most accurate answer is “it depends.” It depends on whether the project is a capstone, or whether the student is participating in industry-sponsored research. It depends on whether undergraduate or graduate students are involved. And, of course, it depends on individual university policies.

“For us, it’s mostly a couple of different buckets,” shares Evan A. Facher, PhD, MBA, director of the Innovation Institute and vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Pittsburgh. “One is the more traditional capstone, the other occurs in the regular course of industry sponsored research where students would be involved. We treat both very differently.”

“We have undergraduate and graduate capstones,” adds Caroline G. Wood, executive director of corporate relations at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “We also have a research semester, as well as graduate work on industry projects.”

Beyond that, notes Kevin Wozniak, MBA, RTTP, head of the Office of Corporate & International Contracting/Exchange Agreements at Georgia Tech, there are further distinctions based on the industry partner’s involvement. There may be a project for which the company simply provides advisors (someone to answer questions, offer guidance on the specifics of the projects), or a slightly larger contribution by the company in which it may provide funding. Each of these variations, he notes, are reflected in the policies regarding some of the aforementioned issues.

“On capstones, when we pair up a company with students it runs basically through the school itself,” says Facher. “Students are treated independently from the university. If they develop IP or need to do confidentiality agreements, they are treated as an individual and interact with the company separately. We try to provide guidance where we can, but it’s not necessarily a university technology. In educational activities, the students own the IP.”

However, he continues, when students are working on a research project, they are treated like faculty and staff. “In that case they typically get paid as a university employee who works in the lab,” he explains. “They get a salary, and anything from that funding is owned by the university, [as] that research is done in our lab setting.”

Regular industry-sponsored research, Facher continues, “falls under our IP policy covering technology invented by a university member engaged with sponsored research. But,” he emphasizes, “capstone is a completely different approach. At times it’s more complicated because when you have the students act on their own in that regard, it’s almost as if they’re individual, owned entities. We try to provide counsel to them and the faculty member whose class or program it is — that may be about what they need to be careful around, what can be promised or not, and so on. We help the faculty member, getting alignment with the company as to what their expectations are to come out of the project so there are no surprises for the student. We feel we have to be part of that third party connection so that there is an alternative [project] available if the student does not want to sign confidentiality agreements, and so forth.”

At Georgia Tech, adds Wozniak, industry contribution is an important differential when it comes to capstone projects. Where there is no financial contribution at all, he says, “there are absolutely no rights the company gets. It is a student course, it’s meant to be, and that’s all it’s going to be. The company should have no expectations, other than these are great opportunities to get to know the students and hopefully identify potential employees.”

A second scenario involves funding or other resources from the company through which the capstone is supported — in general, or in a specific project the company is involved with directly. In that instance, there are two possibilities. If it is a straight-up donation, then like any other donation there should be no strings attached to it, and it mirrors the first example. However, if the company is providing financial support for the project, and if they have an interest in obtaining rights to innovations coming out of the project, it is then treated as a sponsored research activity.

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U.S. expanding disclosure requirements for foreign research ties


By David Schwartz
Published: April 13th, 2021

As if compliance rules for foreign research ties weren’t already a chore, federal agencies are expanding disclosure requirements for the scientists they fund — and getting some pushback from university groups concerned about the scope of information sought.

The new requirements, outlined in National Security Presidential Memorandum-33 and issued in the final week of the Trump administration, establish minimum standards across all agencies for what information must be collected. They were developed as part of a crackdown on violations that have led to the sanctioning, firing, or arrest of dozens of scientists after they were found to have undisclosed ties to foreign institutions, mainly in China.

The Biden administration is continuing the new policy, and last month the National Institutes of Health expanded its disclosure requirements accordingly.

NSPM-33 delineates responsibilities for research security policy across the government, including by establishing what agencies must ask scientists to report when applying for funding or participating in certain federal research activities. The disclosure requirements apply to principal investigators as well as to “other senior/key personnel” on federal grants, agency program officers, researchers at federal labs, peer reviewers, and advisory committee members.

By January 2022, agencies must require all these types of personnel to indicate whether they have applied to or currently participate in any “foreign government-sponsored talent recruitment program.” Agencies must also require personnel to disclose the underlying contract upon request.

More broadly, PIs and other key research personnel must disclose employment relationships and appointments, including honorary and unpaid positions. In addition, all personnel except peer reviewers and advisory committee members must disclose all sources of “other support” they receive related to their research, including in-kind contributions with no monetary value.

The information required by the new rule must be provided to the agency when the personnel apply for funding, are hired, or are “assigned relevant duties,” with updates made at least annually.

NSPM-33 also outlines various potential enforcement actions, ranging from removing violators from grants to prohibiting them from receiving federal funding in the future. Alongside the memorandum, the Office of Science Technology and Policy released a report outlining “recommended practices” for non-federal research institutions to improve research security and integrity. The report suggests that such institutions collect disclosure information from a broader set of personnel than those identified in NSPM-33, including postdocs, graduate students involved in research, and visiting scholars who participate in research for extended periods.

Even prior to NSPM-33’s release, several agencies had begun to substantially clarify or expand their disclosure policies, including the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and NIH.

Research administrators have struggled to keep up with the changes and have pushed for the government to harmonize requirements across agencies.

University associations have raised concerns about differences in scope between the memorandum and a provision in the most recent National Defense Authorization Act, which also sets out minimum disclosure requirements.

Commenting on the new NIH policy specifically, the Council on Governmental Regulations expressed concerns about “the time and burden associated with collecting and uploading contracts/agreements and privacy concerns related to nondisclosure or confidentiality requirements in those agreements.” It also identified a “lack of clarity regarding what type of consulting activities must be disclosed [and] difficulty in determining when certain students who work in labs should be considered as ‘in-kind’ support.”

COGR also listed out differences between NSPM-33, the recommended practices report, and the NDAA provisions, as well as differences between the current NSF and NIH policies. It has asked the White House to modify NSPM-33 so that it aligns with the NDAA provision and to “include a carve-out from the requirement to report in-kind support for academic collaborations that exist solely for the purpose of co-authorship of fundamental research where the results will be made publicly available” – an exception the Department of Energy has already adopted.

Source: AIP

Risk Assessment and Reporting Requirements for Foreign Research Relationships is a distance learning collection dedicated to improving your assessment strategies and compliance with reporting requirements. Click here for details.

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Case Study of Kentucky Commercialization Ventures: Leveraging Public-Private Partnerships for a Stronger Innovation Ecosystem


By David Schwartz
Published: April 13th, 2021

Kentucky Commercialization Ventures supports all of Kentucky’s 22 regional universities and community and technical colleges through education, research, commercialization and workforce development. By providing statewide support, KCV is opening doors to opportunities not previously available in the traditional siloed tech transfer approach.

This public-private initiative has been recognized across the nation for its innovative approach to increasing access and participation in commercialization, promoting regional innovation hubs, and moving inventions through the commercialization pipeline. KCV was recently recognized with a Lab-to-Market Inclusive Innovation Ecosystems award from the U.S. Small Business Administration for its visionary work to improve access to commercialization and innovation pathways statewide.

It’s a unique and successful model every university and innovation stakeholder can learn from, and that’s why Tech Transfer Central has scheduled this distance learning event: Case Study of Kentucky Commercialization Ventures: Leveraging Public-Private Partnerships for a Stronger Innovation Ecosystem.

Join us on May 12th when Monique Kuykendoll Quarterman, MBA, Executive Director of Kentucky Commercialization Ventures, describes in detail the KCV partnership process that is producing significant gains in economic and workforce development while nurturing entrepreneurship and innovation activity statewide.

For complete details and to register, click here.

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Goldman Sachs launches five-year, $25M HBCU student training program


By David Schwartz
Published: April 13th, 2021

Banking giant Goldman Sachs is launching a five-year, $25 million program working with seven of the country’s HBCUs  to train students and develop their finance skills.

North Carolina A&T, Florida A&M, Hampton University, Howard University, Morehouse College, Morgan State, Prairie View A&M, and Spelman College will make up the first cohort of participating schools. The initiative program has been dubbed the “Market Madness: HBCU Possibilities” program.

For four months, 125 first- and second-year students from the seven HBCUs will receive hands-on training and learn fundamental finance skills in a professional setting, complementing their coursework and extracurricular activities. 

The program will culminate with a “Market Madness” case study competition, featuring Procter & Gamble this year. Students will present to senior leaders at Goldman Sachs and compete for prize donations to their institutions and funding opportunity for future generations. 

Based on their student team’s performance in the “Market Madness” program, each participating HBCU will receive a grant from Goldman Sachs ranging from $250,000 to $1 million. Each participating student will also receive a $10,000 academic stipend upon completing the program. 

“N.C. A&T values corporate relationships that pair academic excellence with innovation,” said Harold L. Martin Sr., the school’s chancellor. “This partnership with Goldman Sachs will not only benefit our students and prepare them to join the workforce, but address challenges in the global economy as well.” 

Goldman Sachs CEO and Chairman David Solomon said the partnership with the HBCUs is “the natural next step” in its commitment to developing talent with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. “It’s a smart, long-term investment for the firm, it helps us better serve our clients, and over time we believe it contributes to a more inclusive and dynamic economy and society,” Solomon said. 

A critical component of Goldman Sachs diversity strategy is its goal to double campus analyst hiring from HBCUs by 2025. 

“For generations, HBCUs have had a track record of producing titans of industry and public service. I’m confident the students in our Market Madness: HBCU Possibilities Program will be no exception,” said Asahi Pompey, Goldman Sachs global head of corporate engagement. 

“HBCUs and Goldman Sachs have a shared commitment to excellence, achievement and striving. Not only are we investing in HBCU students, but also their institutions and the larger Black community.”

Source: Triad Business Journal

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UC Santa Cruz to launch new hub for innovation, industry engagement


By David Schwartz
Published: April 13th, 2021

The University of California-Santa Cruz is launching the Innovation and Business Engagement Hub to serve as the connection point for the school’s innovation ecosystem and a single point of entry for potential industry partners and supporters.

University leaders expect The Hub to accelerate business development, industry alliances, technology transfer, innovation, entrepreneurship, and corporate philanthropy while

creating more career pathways for students and supporting the regional economy.

The Hub will be a central support center on campus for those seeking guidance and assistance in industry partnership development, technology transfer, and licensing. It will also serve as a one-stop entry point for industry partners and investors seeking to work with the university.

“Every day UC Santa Cruz researchers are pursuing answers to society’s most pressing challenges,” said Chancellor Cynthia Larive. “We can help ensure this work creates a real, transformative impact by connecting the research and ideas of our faculty, students and researchers with industry, donors, investors and other organizations.” A national search is under way for an assistant vice chancellor for innovation and business engagement to lead the Hub.

Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer said The Hub’s first priority will be to identify new opportunities for connecting potential industry partners with UC Santa Cruz and building partnerships with faculty to help advance their work. The program will be supported by an internal advisory group that includes the deans and other campus innovation leaders, as well as an external advisory group that will guide its work with industry and investors.

“The Hub is about creating opportunities for our innovators and entrepreneurs — students, faculty and researchers — to work more effectively with businesses and nonprofits,” Kletzer said.

The Hub also represents a creative approach by campus units to pool staff resources and expertise to create a unified effort around innovation and industry engagement.

“Our faculty are driven to push the boundary of what’s possible — whether advancing computer chip architecture or developing novel compounds with potential medicinal uses,” said Vice Chancellor for Research Scott Brandt. “This initiative will enable more collaborations, open up new lines of inquiry, and ultimately advance our overall mission as a university.”

Source: UC Santa Cruz Newscenter

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Lowe’s donates $1.5M to UNC Charlotte to help enhance tech talent pipeline


By David Schwartz
Published: April 13th, 2021

Lowe’s is donating $1.5 million to the College of Computing and Informatics (CCS) at UNC Charlotte to help strengthen the university’s position as a leading technology hub and talent provider for the giant retailer.

“We are actively hiring to build the best tech team in retail, and artificial intelligence and machine learning play increasingly important roles in how we serve customers and our associates,” said Seemantini Godbole, executive vice president and chief information officer at Lowe’s. “We are excited to extend our partnership with UNC Charlotte with this donation, which highlights our mutual dedication to developing skilled technology professionals and improving the economic health of our hometown Charlotte region.”

The donation will establish the Lowe’s Endowed Chair in Computer Science and the Lowe’s Technology Innovation Fund, which will provide $50,000 annually in support of innovative research. The endowed chair will focus on a scientist whose research focuses on AI and machine learning.

The donation will also be used to help remove financial hurdles for students and staff. “As the number one producer of African American, Hispanic and female computer science graduates in North Carolina, CCI will use the fund to increase equity, diversity and inclusion in the technology field, including bolstering representation from women and those from underrepresented communities,” Lowe’s says.

The second-floor atrium in Woodward Hall, home to CCI, will be named in Lowe’s honor.

“We are so thankful to Lowe’s for their continued commitment to strengthening research and creative expression across our University,” said Fatma Mili, dean of the College of Computing and Informatics. “This partnership is aligned with the shared commitment between UNC Charlotte and Lowe’s to make a significant impact through the continued innovation of our faculty and students and the education of the next generation of computer scientists.”

The donation builds on a long-standing partnership between Lowe’s and UNC Charlotte, and CCI’s expertise and talent pool were among the reasons Lowe’s selected the Charlotte region for the Lowe’s Tech Hub and its expanded technology presence.

Source: WBTV

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Georgia Tech’s new Office of Corporate Engagement reimagines structure


By David Schwartz
Published: April 13th, 2021

This spring, Georgia Institute of Technology will launch the Office of Corporate Engagement, a new integrated model of corporate relations and industry collaborations designed to help the the school leverage critical partnerships and develop new relationships with industry. The new office is the first of two phases that will reimagine Georgia Tech’s corporate and industry engagement ecosystem, including a refined organizational structure, over the next several months.

“Continued engagement with industry is a critical part of realizing Georgia’s Tech mission to develop leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition,” said President Ángel Cabrera. “A renewed, streamlined organizational approach is essential to welcoming and meeting the demands of these growing opportunities.”

The changes follow a recently completed review of Georgia Tech’s existing corporate, business, and industry engagement structure and activities. The analysis looked closely at how and where faculty and students in academic and research units interact with Georgia Tech’s industry contacts and sponsors across various service areas: recruitment, research, intellectual property, philanthropy, economic development, and education and training. Areas for improvement identified by the review included coordination, fragmentation of services, and communication.

“The analysis spotlighted many of our strengths but also discovered pain points, as these industry engagements have grown in number and complexity,” said Executive Vice President for Research Chaouki T. Abdallah. “With our phased approach, I believe we can better clarify these points of engagement, boost the organizational structure, and create an even stronger customer-focused approach.”

Phase 1 of the revamp, starting in April, will establish the new Office of Corporate Engagement and a new position: Associate Vice President for Corporate Engagement.

The new office will serve as the central clearinghouse and hub for all partner relationships and transactional activities. It will coordinate and collaborate with relevant campus units, including Technology Licensing, Venture Lab, Industry Contracting, Economic Development, Career Services, Georgia Tech Professional Education, and the Enterprise Innovation Institute.

“Our new strategy is grounded in the development of a cohesive, collaborative culture that will allow us to best manage existing relationships and set the standard as we develop new relationships,” said Barrett Carson, vice president for development. “Effective coordination and transparent exchange of information will provide maximum efficiency and support to our valuable partners and Georgia Tech.”

In Phase 2 this summer, the Office of Corporate Relations and the Office of Industry Research — both of which have significant business engagement and relationship management responsibilities — will come under the Office of Corporate Engagement umbrella.

Source: Georgia Tech News Center

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Effective Models of University-Industry Engagement: Case Studies in Success


By David Schwartz
Published: April 13th, 2021

As part of its mission to support holistic industry engagement and assist universities in attracting more corporate partners, University-Industry Engagement Advisor has produced a distance learning collection featuring four leading universities that have used innovative strategies and proven programs to achieve robust relationships with corporate partners. Kansas State University, Brown University, the University of Georgia, and the University at Buffalo are prime examples of how to foster welcoming and comprehensive industry engagement initiatives that result in research funding, job creation, philanthropic funding, talent pipeline development, and economic development.

Effective Models of University-Industry Engagement: Case Studies in Success features the details behind each of these programs in four in-depth presentations. The collection comes complete with the original program materials in on-demand video and transcript — so you can listen and share with your entire staff at your convenience.

For complete details on this valuable collection, click here.

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NSF launches Engineering Research Visioning Alliance to boost high-impact research


By David Schwartz
Published: April 13th, 2021

To help the U.S. stay at the forefront of research and innovation, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate for Engineering today launched the Engineering Research Visioning Alliance (ERVA), the first engineering research visioning organization of its kind.

ERVA was created to provide the engineering community with a process for identifying bold and societally impactful engineering research directions. It is an engaged, inclusive, multilayered partnership, providing a truly diverse array of voices with the opportunity to impact national research priorities. That’s reflected it its leadership structure, headed by principal investigator Dorota Grejner-Brzezinska, PhD, senior associate vice president for research-corporate and government partnerships at The Ohio State University. Four co-principal investigators are Anthony Boccanfuso, PhD, president and CEO of UIDP; Barry W. Johnson, PhD, the L.A. Lacy Distinguished Professor of Engineering at the University of Virginia; Charles Johnson-Bey, PhD, senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton; and Edl Schamiloglu, PhD, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering and associate dean for research and innovation in the University of New Mexico’s School of Engineering.

“Engineering has the power to transform people’s lives, especially when it brings to bear a diversity of knowledge, perspectives, and experience to solve important problems,” says NSF Assistant Director for Engineering Dawn Tilbury. “With NSF’s support, the Engineering Research Visioning Alliance will enable the engineering community to mobilize and make a difference in our country’s future.”

Funded with a five-year, $8 million award from the NSF, the initiative convenes, catalyzes and enables the engineering community to identify nascent opportunities and priorities for engineering-led innovative, high-impact, cross-domain, fundamental research that addresses national, global and societal needs.

“When engineers come together behind a big challenge, we create amazing discoveries and innovations that can lead to exciting new fields,” says Tilbury. “Through ERVA, NSF wants the engineering community to come together to find ideas that will unite us, develop roadmaps for cutting-edge research agendas, and lead to game-changing impacts on our world.”

ERVA will connect government, academic, industry, community, professional society and public sector stakeholders, empowering the engineering research community to speak with a unified voice.

“ERVA is an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of something truly transformative,” notes Grejner-Brzezinska. “It enables the engineering community to unify under the common theme of working together to address society’s greatest challenges.”

Founding partners organizations are the Big Ten Academic Alliance; the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)/Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Foundation (EIF); and the University Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP).

A 10-member Advisory Board will provides oversight, with input coming from a 35-member Standing Council. Stakeholders from academia, industry, government, professional societies and foundations, and the general public will be invited to participate on topic-based task forces.

Source: erVa

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U of Bristol collaborates with media industry to assess its carbon footprint


By David Schwartz
Published: April 13th, 2021

A collaboration between University of Bristol computer science researchers and major media companies in the UK, including ITV and BBC, is focused on helping the media manage their carbon impacts.

A 12-month pilot study will pair Bristol researchers with sustainability and technology teams to map the carbon hotspots of digital media content and streaming services. 

Recent years have seen a surge in companies setting net zero targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and media companies are no exception. They be working alongside sustainability consulting company Carnstone, using its DIMPACT tool, an online carbon calculator that is now available for any company offering digital products and services. The calculator covers digital video streaming, advertising services, business intelligence and publishing, with plans for additional modules covering gaming and music streaming.

“When we started in 2019, there was some uncertainty about whether it would even be possible to create a web tool for the digital media industry. Today, we do not only have a working tool, but we have an engaged group of companies and big plans for the future,” said Christian Toennesen, senior partner at Carnstone.

DIMPACT will allow companies to understand their downstream carbon impacts, which will enable more informed decision making to reduce to overall carbon footprint of digital services.

“This is a great opportunity to leverage our existing research strengths to help create a ground-breaking tool with real-world applications,” said Dr. Dan Schien, of Bristol’s Department of Computer Science.

Source: epigram

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Yale snags sponsored research deal with CYduct Diagnostics


By David Schwartz
Published: April 13th, 2021

Yale University has entered into a Sponsored Research Agreement CYduct Diagnostics, Inc., to test and evaluate the performance of the university’s nanowire biosensor technology for detecting critical protein biomarkers associated with the progression of breast cancer. The one-year agreement also grants CYduct an exclusive option for an exclusive worldwide license in the field of use to the underlying nanowire intellectual property, including any inventions made during the research process.

The assessment involves the CMOS nanowire biosensor technology invented by Mark A. Reed PhD, associate director of the Yale Institute for Nanoscience and Quantum Engineering. They attempt to determine the utility of the technology for assessing overall breast health, the risk of future breast cancer, and/or the presence of metabolic biomarkers indicative of breast cancer.

“This is an exciting application for Yale’s innovative nanowire sensor technology that could have a vital impact on the future of women’s healthcare,” stated Chris Sutton PhD, CYduct Diagnostics chief science officer.

“All women, but especially those with dense breast tissue, are an embattled cohort who could significantly benefit from this progressive risk-screening technology,” added the company CEO Dominick Gatto. “I am pleased that Yale University acknowledges the value in additional molecular diagnostic information provided by their nanowire biosensor, which will aid women and their physicians in determining the risk of breast disease on a personal medicine basis.”

Financial terms of the Agreement were not disclosed.

Source: BioSpace

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UIDPVirtual 2021 is this week!


By David Schwartz
Published: April 13th, 2021

April 12-16 | 90+ SPEAKERS | 50 SESSIONS

With content for everyone on your team, live and on demand, dive in to UIDPVirtual 2021. Meet the speakers and see registration options so you don’t miss a beat of UIDPVirtual 2021!

  • Timely insight to help you address a range of university-industry collaboration challenges
  • All-day networking room for drop-in virtual discussions throughout the conference day, so you can grab a quick conversation when it fits your schedule
  • Personalized conference experience with an agenda you can search and sort for sessions that align with your role: contracting, workforce development and student engagement, government engagement and economic development, and partnership management and research administration.

Click Here to register today. With live and on-demand access, you and don’t have to miss a single session of UIDPVirtual 2021!

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UofSC partnership with IBM seeds an entire ‘partner network’


By David Schwartz
Published: April 6th, 2021

A detailed article on the “partner network” born out of an initial partnership between IBM and the University of South Carolina appears in the March issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here. 

The announcement of a recent partnership involving the University of South Carolina, Nephron Pharmaceuticals, Yaskawa Motoman, and Siemens tells the story of a collaboration between a university’s faculty and students and several industry partners to develop an innovative pharmaceutical solution. But this collaboration, impressive as it is, tells only part of the story.

The full story begins several years ago, with UofSC beginning what would become a complex strategic relationship with IBM. “IBM is one of our big partners,” shares Bill Kirkland, executive director of the UofSC Office of Innovation, Partnerships, and Economic Engagement (OIPEE). “On the IoT side, that partnership formed with them about six years ago.” Soon after that, the university and IBM broadened their collaboration to open the $25 million Center for Applied Innovation to develop solutions for predictive analytics and maintenance. Then, in 2018, the 15,000 square-foot Digital Transformation Lab was created — an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) research lab for real-world applications in areas such as robotics, visual inspection, autonomous drones, and smart home appliances.

Today, Kirkland says, 150 people from IBM work on campus. But beyond that, IBM has introduced the university to a number of its own industry contacts — including Siemens. “As you can imagine, IBM and Siemens work together,” says Kirkland. “That got us two separate things: We formed a partnership with [Seimens’] academic business unit three or four years ago; they donated in-kind software with commercial value of $628 million. From that, it was integrated into our College of Engineering and Computing” in a collaboration headed by mechanical engineering professor Ramy Harik, PhD. “We also expanded the Siemens partnership to include equipment donations — part our Digital Transformation Lab.”

That lab, he continues, includes among its partners IBM, Yaskawa, and Samsung. “IBM again helped us team in Japan for partnership with Yaskawa, specifically the Motoman group in America, which at one point donated robots worth millions of dollars,” says Kirkland.

All of this led to what Kirkland calls a “partner network” in which the university plays the role of a solution development lab. “If a company is involved in manufacturing [and has a problem], we build a solution,” he explains. “Companies [introduced to UofSC by IBM] are briefed and then we have them come down to our lab, where we provide real-life demonstrations.” Before COVID-19, he says, three or four companies a month would come to the executive briefing center and then to the lab.

“Ramy then develops solutions,” he continues, adding, “we are a referral university. IBM brings a partner in and we build a solution. When IBM sells to the market, we get a percentage of the total value to market; it’s another way to get research dollars into the university.”

As a team, Kirland says, “Ramy and the students build real-life solutions for the market, focused on advanced manufacturing, aerospace, automotive. We also now have partnerships with Boeing, BMW, and a number of other companies.”

“The partnership is somewhat of a perfect match,” adds Harik. “The university, in its own wisdom, decided we needed to do groundwork with industry and engage them in a very meaningful way. We did not just want our graduate engineers to be good in the theoretic world, but to make sure they were job-ready from day one. Bill brings in the contacts, discusses issues, thinks about strategic planning, and what’s happening in South Carolina. These things trickle down to, ‘okay, engineering school, can you attack this problem? Who on the faculty can do this?’ I’m in the manufacturing faculty; when that word comes to me, we take the challenge. Together we try to create a theme and a solution to a real industrial problem. We’ve done for so many industry partners.” Harik adds that smaller companies are also now part of this integrated partnership.

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Nova Systems, U of South Australia collaborate on boosting capabilities in key technology areas


By David Schwartz
Published: April 6th, 2021

Engineering services provider Nova Systems and the University of South Australia (UniSA) have committed to explore collaboration in an effort to support Australia’s growing space, defense and national security capabilities. The two parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding last week to partner over the next five years on building industries critical to the Australian economy.

The deal is focused on growing the future pipeline of engineers and conducting industry and academic exchanges in emerging technology areas, with a particular emphasis on defense, national security and space.

The MoU calls for collaboration in several areas:

  • Staff and student placement opportunities including options to grow Nova’s Graduate Program.
  • Research and technology development focused on defense, national security and space.
  • Joint development of training, education and short courses in support of defense, national security, and space industries.

Nova Group CEO Jim McDowell said the signing strengthens the existing relationship between the organizations and would help develop the future workforce for emerging technologies.

“As a 100% Australian owned and operated engineering services and technology solutions company, we are invested in working closely with academia to grow and sustain local smarts to solve complex challenges and keep our world safe and secure,” McDowell said. “This initiative will provide more opportunities for young Australians to gain industry insight, while at the same time studying at university, furthering the Australian Government’s efforts to create and sustain a local workforce of the future.”

UniSA Vice Chancellor David Lloyd said the MoU would enable collaboration on world-class research while providing employment opportunities for graduates. “With Nova being one of Australia’s leading engineering services and technology companies and UniSA a leader in the sector for industry engagement, it makes sense for us to work together,” Lloyd said. “The defense industry is a critical part of the South Australian economy — it’s essential that, as a university, we work closely with industry to educate a local, high-tech defense workforce for the future. This partnership will provide a great opportunity for our students to gain industry experience, for the defense industry to benefit from our world-class defense research, and for our academics to embed themselves in the industry.”

Source: Mirage News

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Best Practices for Licensing Research Tools and Materials


By David Schwartz
Published: April 6th, 2021

Mouse models, cell lines, data, reagents, software…. Your university has a vast inventory of research materials and tools — and these tools have significant licensing potential. The challenge is to find, categorize, and market them to create a new or expanded revenue stream from your existing research assets.

These tangible research materials, whether biological, chemical, physical, or otherwise represent significant untapped revenue. The key is identifying these materials and making them readily available for licensing via click-thru licenses for immediate revenue, and understanding the structure and negotiation strategy required for larger or bundled licenses.

To ensure you get maximum value from your research tool assets, Tech Transfer Central’s Distance Learning Division has partnered with attorney and UNeMed Business Development Manager Joe Runge for this detailed webinar: Best Practices for Licensing Research Tools and Materials, scheduled for April 21st. For complete program details or to register, click here.

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PA hands out $2M in research grants and builds links to manufacturers


By David Schwartz
Published: April 6th, 2021

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Manufacturing PA initiative has awarded 29 grants totaling $2 million in an effort to bring together government, industry and higher education in holistic collaboration to spur new technologies and processes in the manufacturing sector.

Penn State was awarded five grants, shepherded through its Corporate Engagement Center and the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP), which both promoted the program and matched manufacturing partners with faculty and students across the university.

“We are thrilled to see these funded research projects and relationships established between Pennsylvania manufacturers and Penn State,” said Tanna Pugh, PennTAP director and PA Manufacturing program lead for Penn State. “This program provides opportunities for leading university researchers and students to build relationships in the manufacturing industry, and to push forward innovative research that will have a real-world impact.”

The approved projects are part of Manufacturing PA’s fellowship program, which unites eligible graduate and undergraduate students with local manufacturers. Once paired, the students embark on research projects to develop new technologies and advance innovation statewide.

The approved projects address innovation in several sectors of manufacturing, from medical, to energy, to consumer goods. Readers can view the complete list of 29 projects, including funding amounts and manufacturing partners, by clicking here.

Source: Penn State News

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Swinburne and health insurer Medibank extend first-of-its-kind partnership


By David Schwartz
Published: April 6th, 2021

Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology and Medibank – a major health insurance company in that country — have renewed their three-year partnership, which has been focused on providing health services to the Swinburne community.

The initial partnership anticipated the creation of opportunities for further strategic collaboration between the two organizations, and that appears to be now taking shape.

The three-year renewal goes well beyond health services, with plans for expanded industry engagement activity, collaboration in teaching and learning, student work placements in areas across the business, and funding to support research and Swinburne students.

“Our partnership with Medibank allows us to support our community while working on research and projects that can benefit all Australians” says Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Global and Community Engagement Dr Andrew Smith. “I am excited to renew our partnership and look forward to building on the strong connection we have established over the past three years,” he says.

For three years under the initial partnership, Swinburne staff, students and alumni have had access to benefits and discounts across Medibank’s insurance offerings, including health, pet and travel insurance. That will continue in the extension, and Medibank will also continue to be the preferred provider of overseas health coverage for the school’s international students.

Medibank Senior Executive Becky Hyde welcomed the opportunity to extend the relationship with Swinburne to beyond the delivery of health insurance.

“Medibank is excited to continue sharing our broader expertise in health and wellbeing to support Swinburne’s students, staff and alumni, and work collaboratively to drive health innovation in the wider community,” she says. “COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on the global economy and the Australian education sector. It is in times such as these that the significance of trusted and collaborative partnerships is crucial for success.”

The new deal will involve research projects drawing on Swinburne researchers’ expertise in digital health. Medibank will also offer internships and one-year placements for Swinburne students, along with financial support for students who have experienced financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.

Source: Mirage News

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New report: Strategic University-Industry Partnerships and Holistic Corporate Engagement


By David Schwartz
Published: April 6th, 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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Howard U inks expanded research deal with government consulting firm LMI


By David Schwartz
Published: April 6th, 2021

LMI, a consulting firm focused on government clients, is expanding its partnership with Howard University to pursue academic research that supports the needs of the company’s government customers.

The company will provide funds, mentorship and customer engagements in support of Howard University, which has been partnering with LMI since 2005.

The LMI Research Institute combines the company’s government client-centered programs with studies and insights from Howard University and other leading universities.

“LMI is very pleased to expand our long-term partnership,” said Doug Wagoner, the compan’s president and CEO.

The LMI-sponsored Minority Case Competition, run by Howard’s MBA program, allows students to pitch ideas and exhibit business analytical talent for a chance to win up to $11,000. The competition’s next iteration is scheduled to run this fall.

“Howard University appreciates LMI’s 15-year commitment to the university and looks forward to strengthening this relationship now and into the future,” stated Howard University President Dr. Wayne Frederick.

Source: Howard Newsroom

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Come one day or stay all week — don’t miss UIDPVirtual 2021


By David Schwartz
Published: April 6th, 2021

April 12-16 | 90+ Speakers | 50 Sessions

Where else can you ask the NSF director questions about university-industry collaboration and participate in a session with two former NSF directors — all in one day?

Meet the speakers and see registration options today, so you don’t miss a minute of UIDPVirtual 2021.

  • Timely insight to help you address a range of university-industry collaboration challenges.
  • All-day networking room for drop-in virtual discussions throughout the conference day, so you can grab a quick conversation when it fits your schedule.
  • Personalized conference experience with an agenda you can search and sort for sessions that align with your role: contracting, workforce development and student engagement, government engagement and economic development, and partnership management and research administration.

Click Here to register today, and don’t miss a single session of UIDPVirtual 2021!

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Dalhousie revamps industry engagement office, embraces transparency and standardization


By David Schwartz
Published: March 30th, 2021

A detailed article on Dalhousie U’s reorganization of its industry engagement office and its use of business process mapping appears in the March issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here. 

“Streamlining” may be an easy term to describe the recent changes made by Dalhouisie University’s Office of Commercialization and Industry Engagement (OCIE) — changes that include its current name and a revamping of its website. But its leaders note that it was the transparent sharing of those changes, enabled by the redesigned website and the standardization of the ways the office approaches industry engagement, that truly embody the transformation of the office.

Formerly known as the Industry Liaison and Innovation (ILI) office, the corporate engagement unit of this Canadian university undertook a strategic review of operations in order to improve efficiency and enhance transparency around processes, procedures, and timelines. “The overarching goal is to continue to grow industry-sponsored research,” says Stephen Hartlen, assistant vice president for industry relations. “We’re all very busy, and there was some question as to whether we were as productive as we could be. We embarked on an exercise — pre-COVID — addressing processes and procedures to make them as streamlined, efficient, and transparent as possible.”

It was, he admits, tougher than he had anticipated. “Business process mapping is complicated,” he says.

Although challenging, the exercise was well worth it, notes Jolene MacEachern, manager of agriculture and aquaculture. “Knowing the process and having it work for you is so important; it gives you more time for liaison [with industry],” she says.

Before COVID travel restrictions were put in place, Hartlen recalls, the senior management team made “road trips” to McMaster University and the University of Toronto, which had much larger teams but had already embarked on business process mapping exercises. “We looked at how they mapped and the tools they used,” says Hartlen. “Then we looked at their websites and at what information and processes you were able to [view] online.”

They also reviewed the approaches at a number of other schools and incorporated “a little bit of everything from everywhere.”

One of the challenges, notes Hartlen, was that many of the processes in place had been there for a long time. “I heard ‘this is the way we’ve always done it,’ a lot,” he says, adding that one goal of the revamp was to simplify processes. “The biggest example was that all the managers seemed to have different processes they followed to do the same thing; there was no consistency in the office,” he observes. “Some were more productive — they had quicker ways of doing things — while others followed the way they were taught.”

The team hired an external consultant to help with the business process mapping. “We (a team of 10, plus Hartlen and the consultant) basically took a dozen or so business processes that we manage,” Hartlen reports. “We interviewed all the people associated [with the processes], including people outside the university, like partner organizations, as well as departments in financial services, legal associates, and marketing communications. Once the third party collected the information, we all sat in the board room and knocked off one process at a time, each of which typically took half a day.” Some of the items reviewed included NDAs, license agreements, research contracts, and CRAs.

One of the areas that stuck out, says MacEachern, was the signature and review process. “Everyone was doing it differently; legal would have to come back and ask clarifying questions,” she recalls. “Now, we have a checklist of all the things we have to review.” What the list includes, she explains, may not be as critical as its mere existence as a time saver. “It’s so simple; it seems minute, but it makes such a difference for the volume our legal folks see,” she says.

According to MacEachern, the process could be summarized as “the act of going through everything and checking all the bases. It seems so simple, but the value add was sitting at the table and learning, ‘Oh, that’s how you do it.’” Another benefit of the process, she notes, is being able to communicate and share these standards with new people as they are onboarded.

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Drexel opens medical cannabis research center and signs $15M partnership agreement


By David Schwartz
Published: March 30th, 2021

Drexel University is jumping on the boom in medical cannabis research, signing an eight-year, $15.5 million partnership agreement with Chester, PA-based Agronomed Biologics and gaining approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to conduct research on medical cannabis grown by the company. In conjunction with those moves, the school has just opened a new Medical Cannabis Research Center (MCRC), where it will conduct evidenced-based research on the effects of medical cannabis on patients with specific medical and behavioral conditions.

Volunteers for the studies will be recruited from Agronomed’s dispensaries, since regulations prevent Drexel from housing or dispensing cannabis itself. The company’s first dispensary (The Healing Center) is scheduled to open in Chester in April.

Outcomes from Drexel’s research will be used to inform Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program and assist the medical community at large to make better clinical decisions for its patients. The medical pot has been legal in Pennsylvania for five years, not much data exists on the efficacy of medical cannabis treatments – largely due to restrictions related to federal law, which still classifies cannabis as a schedule I drug. The Drexel-Agronomed partnership seeks to expand that data, assessing the effects of medical cannabis in treating 23 state-approved physical and psychological medical conditions including HIV, neuropathies, autism, opioid dependence and PTSD.

“Cannabis has been used to treat a variety of medical and behavioral maladies for at least 2,000 years. To date there are very few controlled scientific studies demonstrating its efficacy to treat any malady,” said Drexe’s Executive Vice Provost for Research & Innovation Aleister Saunders, PhD. “We are excited to bring modern scientific approaches to study the clinical effects of cannabis on the state-approved conditions. If our studies can demonstrate efficacy of medical cannabis, there are a large number of patients whose physical and psychological conditions can be treated with a new therapeutic approach. The potential to improve the lives of millions of citizens is very real. Therefore, we are very excited about having real and positive impacts on society.”

The MCRC will function as an overarching administrative unit charged with enacting the vision and mission of the partnership and will serve as an incubator of ideas for additional research at the university over time. The research partnership with Agronomed will include a patient registry study, a clinical core, and pilot studies.

Stephen Lankenau, PhD, Drexel’s research dean and director of the MCRC, has led multiple large-scale, NIH-funded grants focused on medical cannabis in young adults in California since 2013. He will oversee a patient registry study starting in April.

The study will follow Agronomed dispensary patients to understand their demographics, prior health concerns and prior cannabis or other drug use practices, as well as what impact using cannabis medically has on their health. Agronomed and Drexel will equally split the intellectual property ownership of any research findings.

“Our vision is to improve patient population health by balancing the scientific understanding of cannabis and its medical applications,” said Lankenau. “Our goal is to partner with Agronomed, learn from their patients and potentially figure out what types of cannabis formulations work the best for different conditions. And as we learn those facts, that could then lead to more in-depth trials and studies.”

Center co-director Wei Du, chair of the department of psychiatry, is an addiction medicine expert and will oversee the clinical trial core. “I think, as a physician and a scientist, that a leading academic institution like Drexel should play a role in terms of advancing the science behind medical cannabis, which is an area in which we need a lot of understanding now that there is a huge push for cannabis legalization in multiple states,” said Du. “I think this is the right time for us to put in the effort and resources to design clinical research and clinical trials so that we can work with our partner to rigorously study the medical benefits and also assess the potential risks of cannabis, and then present the findings to the community so physicians and the patients as well as their families can be informed based on science and evidence.”

Agronomed views the deal as much more than sponsored research. “Even though we have a sponsored arrangement with Drexel in which we are funding the University and the program, it feels like much more of a partnership because it’s so collaborative,” said Agronomed CEO Jon Cohn. “We have the dispensary side and can provide the product and the patients, and Drexel will supply the research staff and consultations. It just seemed like the perfect opportunity for us.”

Source: Drexel Now

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Best Practices for Licensing Research Tools and Materials


By David Schwartz
Published: March 30th, 2021

Mouse models, cell lines, data, reagents, software…. Your university has a vast inventory of research materials and tools — and these tools have significant licensing potential. The challenge is to find, categorize, and market them to create a new or expanded revenue stream from your existing research assets.

These tangible research materials, whether biological, chemical, physical, or otherwise represent significant untapped revenue. The key is identifying these materials and making them readily available for licensing via click-thru licenses for immediate revenue, and understanding the structure and negotiation strategy required for larger or bundled licenses.

To ensure you get maximum value from your research tool assets, Tech Transfer Central’s Distance Learning Division has partnered with attorney and UNeMed Business Development Manager Joe Runge for this detailed webinar: Best Practices for Licensing Research Tools and Materials, scheduled for April 21st. For complete program details or to register, click here.

Also coming soon:

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U Edinburgh leads new supercomputing center offering industry support


By David Schwartz
Published: March 30th, 2021

Two leading supercomputing facilities in the UK have joined forces to create a national computing competence center as part of a Europe-wide network.

The UK center will be led jointly by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Hartree Centre and EPCC, the supercomputing centre at the University of Edinburgh.

Named EuroCC@UK, the facility will form part of a new network of over 30 national competence centers across Europe, funded by the European Commission.

According to STFC officials, the center will be open to the public sector, academia and industry and will be focused on supporting AI research and innovation. The network will provide a platform for sharing best practice and expertise in advanced computing.

In the UK, the network’s efforts are expected to focus on high performance computing (HPC), high performance data analytics (HPDA) and AI, with an eye toward enabling industry to benefit from these technologies,

EuroCC@UK will map current expertise in the UK and develop training, software support, and industry engagement programs. It will also carry out awareness-creation activities aimed at keeping the UK’s scientific and industrial research communities engaged in high-performance computing initiatives.

 “The National Competence Center allows the UK to contribute to and to learn from international best practice in supporting the wider uptake of HPC, HPDA and AI by industry and academia, said Alison Kennedy, director of the Hartree Centre. “The roadmapping activities will allow us to identify gaps in our national provision of support to industry and to benchmark ourselves against the best in Europe. With the increase in UK investment in computing e-infrastructure, the findings will enable the UK to better target our resources to make the most effective use of the new capacity for economic and societal benefit.”

Source: UK Authority

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U Kentucky collaboration with Lexmark to boost innovation, economic development


By David Schwartz
Published: March 30th, 2021

The University of Kentucky and printing and imaging company Lexmark International are building on their longstanding partnership through a new agreement designed to accelerate innovation and spur economic growth. Lexmark will also sponsor a new scholarship program for women and minority engineering students under the new agreement.

Dubbed the Lexmark-UK Collaboration Guidelines, the agreement details ways the two entities will work together to develop innovation that results in viable business opportunities. The collaboration will also encourage faculty across campus to submit proposals to Lexmark for funding.

The deal builds on the license agreement between UK and Lexmark made last year. Led by the UK Office of Business Engagement, the new agreement is a joint development effort between Lexmark, Lexmark Ventures, the UK Research Foundation, the Office of Technology Commercialization, the College of Engineering, and UK Corporate and Foundations Relations.

“The University of Kentucky is excited about this next step in our partnership with Lexmark,” said Kim Kluemper, director of the UK Office of Business Engagement. “UK is proud of its efforts to create a partner-friendly approach to working with industry. We believe our streamlined research agreements and other processes help to create the business-friendly environment that will strengthen business collaboration and further expand UK’s economic impact.”

“Lexmark and UK have always had a strong relationship fostering collaborative activities across many disciplines,” said Sandra McCain, director of Supplies Delivery and University Engagement at Lexmark. “This new agreement serves to strengthen that relationship even further. Future activities will flow into a more formal process resulting in new innovations that benefit Lexmark’s business and create exciting growth experiences for UK’s students.”

In addition to the collaborative agreement, Lexmark will also partner with the UK College of Engineering to offer two, $10,000 annual scholarships. The scholarship application is open to all and preference is given to women and underrepresented students majoring in engineering if possible. The scholarships also come with a paid, 10-week summer internship at Lexmark headquarters in Lexington. 

“This scholarship program focuses on our two key areas of philanthropic giving — science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and diversity,” said Sheri Evans Depp, director of human resources at Lexmark. “We are looking forward to the program providing a pipeline of diverse new talent for Lexmark.” 

Rodney Andrews, associate vice president for research and director of the UK Center for Applied Energy Research, noted the previous success between the two partners. “Along with the UK Department of Mining Engineering, we launched an electronics recycling research partnership between our organizations last year which leverages our respective strengths to solve an industry-wide problem. This new agreement will build upon that success and spur innovation that will help ensure Lexmark’s continued advantage in an ever-competitive global marketplace while providing new opportunities for our students, faculty and staff.”

The annual commitment will continue for an initial period of five years, with an option to be renewed. 

Source: UK Now

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Best Practices in Gaining SBIR/STTR Funding for University Technologies


By David Schwartz
Published: March 30th, 2021

The Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs can be critical and significant sources of funding for university innovations and start-ups. With nearly $2B in funding being awarded each year, faculty innovators, start-up founders, TTO staff, and sponsored research managers must understand how to ensure their applications stand apart from the herd.

That’s why we’re offering this two-session distance learning resource: Best Practices in Gaining SBIR/STTR Funding for University Technologies. It includes these two outstanding, strategy-filled programs:

  • Dispelling SBIR/STTR Funding Myths and Misconceptions for University-Based Innovations. Many myths and misconceptions persist regarding how to apply, who can apply, what technologies are eligible, and how funds are awarded. SBIR/STTR funding consultant and former NIH scientific review officer Geoffrey White, PhD, dispels the myths and offers solid guidance on successful applications.
  • SBIR/STTR Funding: Strategies for Submitting a Winning Application. Knowing the critical factors that lead to success can make a huge difference in determining whether you get funded — and ultimately in whether your research or early-stage venture ever makes it to the commercial marketplace. This session identifies the four primary components to getting funded through these two highly competitive programs. It also addresses the key challenges facing SBIR/STTR applicants and offers expert guidance for planning ahead to ensure successful completion of major steps within the application process.

For complete details, click here.

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Wageningen U partners with Current to research lighting for greenhouse crops


By David Schwartz
Published: March 30th, 2021

Lighting and energy management company GE Current has extending its already vibrant global horticulture lighting research initiative, signing a new partnership with Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in the Netherlands. The new study, led by WUR’s Dr. Leo Marcelis, will focus on determining the value and uses of interlighting for greenhouse vine crops like tomatoes, using both Current’s specialized LED products. The research aims to provide growers with better guidance on the position, type and intensity of interlighting, in combination with LED top lighting, to maximize yield volume and quality.

WUR is the latest major ag school to partner with Current in the Boston-based company’s efforts to better understand the impact of supplemental lighting on plant growth.

According to Dr. Hans Spalholz, senior plant scientist at Current, “the use of LED lighting in horticulture is still a relatively novel concept so we want to remove some of the guesswork and mysticism that currently surrounds it through rigorous, scientific investigation. Wageningen University & Research is extremely strong when it comes to controlled environment agriculture research and is even ranked as the world’s leading university for agricultural sciences. Needless to say, we are very excited to work with such a strong academic team to answer the important and pressing questions for growers. With this, and our other academic partnerships, we aim to drive the horticultural lighting industry forward, with credible insight, backed by science and applied data.”

The Current-sponsored study will capture data in the coming months, and the results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

This is just the latest research project for Current, which is also working with NC State University, Ohio State University, and the Stockbridge Technology Centre in the UK to investigate the impact of light on different stages of plant growth across a wide variety of medicinal, ornamental and edible crops.

Marcelis, who leads the Horticulture and Product Physiology group at Wageningen, noted that “growers are more likely to consider the move from HPS [high-pressure sodium lighting] to low-energy LEDs once they are certain it will be beneficial to crop productivity. Our work with Current aims to compare the effects of LED and HPS lighting on yield and quality of tomato, as well as comparing different ratios of all-LED top lighting vs intra-canopy lighting, providing more definitive guidance to growers on how best to achieve their production goals.”

Current hopes its collaboration with WUR will help refine the design and deployment of the company’s forthcoming interlighting portfolio and will offer more detailed insight into the most effective light distribution and ratio between top lighting and interlighting fixtures.

“Although interlighting is widely used in the industry, very little reliable research is available to help growers harness it for maximum effect,” said Malcolm Yare, Current’s horticulture business development manager. “We’re looking to replace the trial and error phases with clearer guidance for our customers and partners, giving them confidence that not only do they have the best lighting on the market, but that their installation is optimized to achieve its full potential.”

Source: Business Wire

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UW-Madison launches internal fund to support internships, industry collaborations


By David Schwartz
Published: March 23rd, 2021

A detailed article on UW-Madison’s Promoting Industry Collaboration funding initiative appears in the March issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here. 

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has started a new fund, with a total of $2 million initially available, to support research collaborations with industry and internships for graduate students. The initiative, called Promoting Industry Collaboration, is being funded by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), the university’s tech transfer and commercialization arm. The grants, available in increments of $50,000 to $200,000, can be used for projects of one or two years, in addition to internships associated with the projects.

“When I became vice chancellor, we started looking at industry research funding and it was not as high as that of our peers — which was kind of surprising, notes Steve Ackerman, vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “Over the years there have been a variety of activities we’ve worked on to try to make collaboration easier. We’re now at the point where we’ve said, ‘Okay, we’ve removed some roadblocks; let’s see if we can inspire new collaborations with industry,’ and part of that is to try and seed-fund relationships.”

“The other aspect of the initiative is the training of graduate students, giving them more opportunity to get an idea of what it’s like to be in industry,” adds Cynthia “Cindy” Czajkowski, associate vice chancellor for research in the biological sciences. “It gives them experience in the private sector, they develop professional skills, good lab practices, and good manufacturing practices. You can’t get that in our labs.”

Proposals for funding can focus on fundamental research in science, engineering and technology; developing applications for university-industry cooperative research centers; and pilot studies for future proposals that specifically target partnerships between UW-Madison and industry. The initiative also supports semester or semester-plus-summer internships for PhD students with dissertator status. IP related to the projects must be assigned to WARF.

The awards can’t be used to fund industry personnel, but they can be used to fund services and products. Some level of matching support is required, and the cost of industry personnel is expected to be covered by the industry partner, although it can be applied as matching funds. One key exception, notes Czajkowski, is that funds cannot be used by faculty to support their own start-ups.

Ackerman emphasizes the fact that this initiative is totally internal. “We’re a little unique in our office; we get up to $60 million or so from WARF, which can be used to invest in research across campus,” he explains. “What we typically do is have initiatives, trying to seed funds into new research in new areas; this year’s strategic initiative is working with industry.”

There was not a huge amount of input from industry partners into the development of the fund, he continues, but adds it was launched out of a pre-COVID conversation with some biotech industry professionals in Madison. “They said, ‘Hey, we need to find some way to work together in developing more collaborations,’” he recalls. “COVID hit, but we still had it in our minds to work this problem, so we launched it off.”

Ackerman adds that when he first began focusing on designing the fund, he had reached out to some other Big Ten universities to see if any of their research offices had done something similar. “Nobody responded that they had,” he shares.

“NSF and NIH do have some funding for university-industry collaborations — especially in clinical research, developing new instruments for medical use,” adds Czajkowski. “That’s the template of this idea. But an initiative where as a university we supply dollars and industry supplies dollars? That is unique.”

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Ford partners with University of Michigan on robotics research lab


By David Schwartz
Published: March 23rd, 2021

Ford Motor Co. and the University of Michigan held a grand opening last week for a four-story, $75 million complex that will house a robotics and mobility lab – the first such lab for the automaker on a university campus. The top floor of the building is reserved for Ford researchers and engineers, who will work with U-M faculty to develop robots and roboticists.

“As we all drive and use our vehicles and go about our day-to-day lives, I’m sure all of us have moments in our day where we could use a little help or a little assistance,” said Ken Washington, Ford’s chief technology officer. “We are going to be working on drone technology, walking robots, roving robots, all types of robots in this facility and the ways in which they can make people’s lives better,” Washington added. “And we’ll do it in a way that addresses questions and fears around safety and security. The more people see how these robots can interact with society and interact with humans, the more comfortable they’ll get with them.”

The new building and its Robotics Institute brings together researchers who were scattered in 23 buildings and 10 programs into one space. It features a 30-mph treadmill studded with obstacles and a stair-stepped “robot playground” to test out robot capabilities.

“We want them to be able to operate in realistic situations … you get out in the real world where there’s rolling, twigs,” said Jessy Grizzle, the Robotics Institute director. “There’s rocks. There’s boulders. There’s holes that you can’t see because the grass is cut flat, and then you want your robots to respond well and stay upright just like a human would.”

In addition to robotics, Ford and other automakers are investing billions of dollars in autonomous vehicles, which are expected to rely heavily on robotics technology.

People may one day see a robot emerge from a driverless vehicle, stroll across their lawn and leave a package at their door, according to Washington. “This is an exciting proposition, especially in this post-COVID era where the promise of doing shopping online has become just sort of the norm,” he said. “As you think about a future where package delivery is going to be part of daily life, this is a real opportunity for us to pair a robot with an autonomous vehicle to help solve the problem of package delivery at scale.

“It’s not here today, but you can be pretty certain that it’s coming in the not-too-distant future,” Washington said.

Alec Gallimore, dean of engineering at U-M, sees robots as not just expanding human capabilities, but having potential to save lives and offer “synergy” in human activity.

“So, we’re designing robots that are going to help you. First responders, for example. Can we put robots in harm’s way so we don’t have to have people there?”

Ford contributed about $37 million to the cost of the robotics building, which also features a three-story, indoor fly zone to test drones and other autonomous aerial vehicles indoors and a yard designed to mimic vehicle landing situations on the surface of Mars.

Source: Terrace Standard

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


By David Schwartz
Published: March 23rd, 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 has scheduled this detailed and practical webinar: Non-Disclosure Agreements in University Research and Commercialization: Drafting Strategies for Maximum IP Protection, scheduled for April 13th. 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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