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To market more effectively to industry, go beyond the portal

Excerpted from the April 2022 issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. UIDP members can view the entire issue here.

It wasn’t too long ago that website portals listing all the technologies and resources available at a research university represented a leading-edge marketing option for letting existing and potential industry partners know the opportunities available to them. More recently, however, some corporate engagement professionals have recognized that a more targeted approach might be needed — or at the very least provide a valuable add-on to existing efforts.

“For very large institutions like ours and others, there’s no way we can keep updated on a portal; that’s the biggest challenge,” says JoonHyung Cho, director of corporate relations and business development at the University of Virginia. “You can [compile] it once, but without third-party resources or a dedicated unit on campus, that’s the biggest challenge. It might be more feasible for a smaller institution or specialized centers, but with several thousand faculty it’s simply impossible to know who does what” and keep a portal continually refreshed. Portals can be very helpful, he adds, “but they have increasingly become more for internal use than external use.”

In many cases, Cho says, “portals were created to satisfy internal criticism — that you were not marketing enough. We can show that we at least built this; we can’t guarantee someone will use it, but it’s there.” In his view, it’s preferable to listen to industry partners share their challenges and engage in a market pull approach, rather than relying on the relatively passive market push of a portal.

“We have a portal of available technologies and research; some people use it, but I tend to agree with that assessment,” adds Michael Psarouthakis, director of ventures and managing director of the Accelerate Blue Fund at the University of Michigan. To reach prospects in a more targeted way, he has worked with innovation management platform Wellspring to curate start-ups. The UM Startup Pipeline report is shared with 700+ investors, including strategic corporations, around the world quarterly. (See Figure 1 on page 51. UIEA readers who wish to access the report can go to While not geared specifically toward industry engagement, the concept could be applied to research and technologies as well as start-ups.

The University of Pittsburgh has gone even farther, creating a curated “top tech” list using Salesforce and sharing it quarterly with about 100 industry partners and over 75 investors. This “Opportunity Report” highlights “our top ‘X’ number of things we’re most excited about,” says Joseph B. Havrilla, MBA, Pitt’s associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship. Actually, he shares, “we modeled the concept somewhat after the University of Michigan model.”

As part of the process that led to the Pitt program, industry partners were approached for their feedback. “We also have a portal,” says Havrilla, “but one of the things we found from talking with partners is they don’t use it. With 3,000 technologies, they’re not prioritized in importance; [portals] are typically not the best engines to search and really understand the technology — and just not worth their effort. We heard that, so we decided to develop about 100 targets — which we think is what industry and VCs are looking for today.”

Excerpted from the April 2022 issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. UIDP members can access the complete article and the entire issue here. Other practitioners may subscribe to receive the UIEA newsletter at