Untangling Joint Solicitations: Less Red Tape, More Revenue, Returns, Results
Feb. 27, 2023 – With an eye toward solving complex global challenges, stakeholders in academia, industry, and government are crafting new approaches to maximize the impact of research investments. Joint funding solicitations are building momentum as an avenue to solve complex, often technology-focused research questions by collaborating across sectors to rapidly address industry-wide R&D challenges.
The National Science Foundation has been at the forefront of piloting new approaches to multi-sector funding. NSF and other government agencies have partnered with companies to co-develop and co-fund calls for proposals from academic researchers through joint solicitations, resulting in initiatives like the Resilient & Intelligent NextG Systems (RINGS) program, which promotes research into wireless and mobile communications with support from NSF, the U.S. Department of Defense, and companies including UIDP members Apple, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and VMware.
That’s not to say that joint solicitations are a sleek, seamless funding mechanism. Government agencies and potential partnering companies recognize the need to optimize the process of joint solicitation development so parties can more rapidly identify research directions and expand the landscape of industry partners and sectors. There’s also a practical need to streamline program development, shorten the timeline to get to a solicitation, find ways to add more companies after a program is established, and reduce other barriers so more companies can sign on.
Industry wants to partner
Last spring, UIDP surveyed its industry members to gauge their willingness to be involved in joint solicitations. If given the opportunity to contribute to a U.S. federal agency grant and, in return, have a say in scoping the research direction of the project, the majority of respondents (58%) said they would take advantage of joint funding opportunities.
Not surprisingly, 71% of respondents identified IP rights as the main barrier to participating in jointly funded program solicitations. Other barriers noted were the anticipated lift to get buy-in from company leadership and the burden of the project solicitation development and execution process itself. To date, direct-funding joint solicitations are tailored to the topic and industry sector—and take nearly a year to get off the ground.
Joint solicitations work best when the companies involved are driving the research direction. The voice of industry is critical not just in shaping the program, but also in ongoing collaboration with the university-based researchers as projects progress. From industry’s standpoint, a strong value proposition is the interaction with academic researchers that they may never have been able to identify and work with outside a federally-funded program.
Why it matters
The challenge in play today is how to streamline the joint solicitation process so more of these valuable partnerships can get off the ground. Can approaches be standardized, eliminating the need to start from scratch every time? More efficient and effective joint solicitation avenues would mean each stakeholder spends less time, fewer resources, and less money on negotiating these mechanisms. Companies specialize in creating efficiencies to maximize benefits. It could be that adopting practices refined and tested in private business will lead to the significant expansion in innovation and R&D development that government agencies seek.
What do you think about joint solicitations? How would you streamline these collaborations to cut the red tape so all stakeholders can reap the benefits? Join the conversation and let us know.