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New Member Spotlight: L3Harris Technologies

UIDP welcomes L3Harris Technologies as a new member organization. L3Harris is an agile global aerospace and defense technology innovator, providing advanced defense and commercial technologies across air, land, sea, space and cyber domains. UIDP spoke with Chris Feuerstein, an electrical engineering manager at L3Harris, who is responsible for a majority of the university research partnerships for the organization’s communication systems segment.

UIDP: What is L3Harris hoping to gain from this membership with UIDP in the coming year?

Feuerstein: We’re connected to UIDP through the Communication Systems business that’s headquartered in Rochester, NY. We are more of a commercial entity than our sister segment focused on Space & Airborne Systems, so we bring a slightly different flavor to industry-university teaming.

We are hoping to refine our approach to some of the relationships we have with universities—pre-existing and fairly cultivated, as well as some of the new ones we’re looking to work with. How can we do a better job balancing the short-term objectives around conducting a research project—get a deliverable and then move on—with some of the longer-term goals of cultivating a relationship that has a longer trajectory and is resilient over budget increases and decreases?

UIDP: What are the current challenges that L3Harris is facing in the development of university-industry partnerships?

Feuerstein: The biggest challenges are a lot of the tactical components to partnerships, particularly with intellectual property. We occasionally run into difficulty where an internal researcher proposes a project that they are really excited about with a high likelihood that the project will produce some IP. The university also has a lot of desire to retain that IP. Depending on how the agreements are structured, sometimes we’re able to negotiate exclusive licenses up front for the IP which works great. Other times, licenses are negotiated post-discovery, and that’s less desirable because you have an unknown financial risk that is difficult to budget for. In both cases, we’re seeing a lot of desire on the university side, even with the granting of exclusive licenses, to have royalties attached. We understand that this can be important to the University so one of our goals for this year’s membership in UIDP is to better understand what constitutes a fair agreement, what we should aim for, and how we should structure our internal processes and tracking to meet that goal.

UIDP: Can you tell us about a particularly successful L3Harris university-industry partnership?

Feuerstein: The most successful partnership we have for our Communication Systems business in Rochester is with Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). We typically run two to three projects with them every year. We try to share some kind of technology initiatives with them and they try to share some of their technology initiatives with us. We are able to bring faculty on site occasionally to give presentations about what they’re doing and why it’s relevant to the company. In exchange, we try to get some of our technologists to provide presentation materials in the same vein as that faculty member’s research or program that they’re working on to try to foster collaboration.