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UIDP 1-Minute Survey | Role of Alumni in Advancing University-Industry Partnerships

Alumni can be instrumental in strengthening relationships across the university-industry (U-I) engagement spectrum . For example, Zaib And Amir Husain, alumni tech entrepreneurs, donated $5 million in 2020 to launch a machine learning laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin to house a new NSF-funded ArtificiaI Intelligence Institute, and the University of Florida’s AI partnership with NVIDIA was anchored by a $50 million gift from NVIDIA founder and UF alumnus Chris Malachowsky.

At the recommendation of a member organization, UIDP surveyed member representatives to learn their perspectives on the role that alumni play in advancing U-I partnerships. A majority of respondents were university employees with  27% from industry or other research organizations. Download the results.

UIDP asked respondents to rate the relative importance of alumni in advancing university-industry partnerships. Nearly four out of five (78.8%) responded that the importance of alumni was high or very high, with only 4% rating the importance as low or very low. Among industry respondents, 73% rated this question high or very high.

block chartDespite this high rating, more than half of the respondents said their organizations do not have a formal strategy for leveraging alumni to advance U-I partnerships, and nearly 10% did not know whether their organizations had such a strategy.

Given this disparity, a strong majority of respondents (78%) said this was a topic ripe for further exploration by UIDP.

Discussion and comments uncovered several challenges:

  • Tracking alumni relationships tends to fall in the domain of universities. Corporations don’t usually track this.
  • Fiscal ability rests with decision-makers in industry, so finding a highly-placed champion is key.
  • Basing the industry talent pipeline on alumni relationships may narrow diversity of thought. Companies should look for new ideas in unexpected places
  • Relationships must align industry need with value from academia.
Survey fielded December 2020 | n=81