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Why it’s challenging for industry to engage in government research collaboration

By Kristina Thorsell
UIDP Senior Project Advisor

Two panel discussions from the UIDP Triple Helix Days event held in October get to the heart of the barriers and challenges for industry engagement in government research collaboration—whether independently or, more often, with an academic partner. The panelists spoke candidly about their experiences and offered tangible examples and great advice.
are available to our members to watch in the UIDP Member Resource Center. Please share them with government relations, corporate relations, and contracting colleagues in your organization.

The first session, “Corporate Perspectives on Federal Funding for U-I Collaboration,” featured insight from Larry Schuette, Lockheed Martin’s director of global science and technology engagement, and Narayan Srinivasa, Intel Labs’ director of machine intelligence research programs. This session is especially valuable for companies that aspire to be prime contractors for the U.S. federal government, with concrete steps for how to get started. University professionals who work with faculty to find corporate partners to collaborate on government-funded projects will find considerable value in the speakers’ examples of when these collaborations work—and when they don’t.

Larry’s experience working as director of research at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) provided strategic insight about selecting the right opportunities to collaborate on government-funded projects. Industry sponsored research professionals should not miss this opportunity to hear the approach that Intel and Lockheed Martin take when pursuing federal dollars to fund their own research and also to leverage federal dollars to move their overall research agenda forward.

In the second session, “Corporate and Academic Perspectives on the Pursuit of Federal Funding for U-I Collaborative Projects,” I was joined by Rajni Aneja, managing director, Cornell Institute for Food Systems; Gretchen Baier, associated R&D director for The Dow Chemical Company; and Keith Spencer, director of academic liaison at GlaxoSmithKline for an in-depth discussion and concrete examples of triple helix collaborations. The panelists offered essentials for contracting officers in industry, but the session is valuable for corporate relations professionals in academia, too.

Rajni shared examples of how intellectual property (IP) is handled for different funding opportunities. In response, Gretchen and Keith highlighted key corporate considerations around IP and how that impacts whether an industry partner would pursue a government funding opportunity. Keith’s insights were informed by his experience with both U.S. and European government funding opportunities.

Every industry partner has its own IP strategy, so knowing these particulars is critical. For corporate relations professionals, the panel offered real insight into what their corporate partners need and want to know before they participate on a government funding proposal. The panel shared great questions universities should ask corporate partners on the front end of any opportunity to better gauge whether pursuing government funding collaboratively makes sense.

All of the panelists shared the key messages that they hope viewers will use in their pursuit of public funding. These messages can be used both internally for companies and universities to better position themselves and externally to inform funders about how to bolster industry participation in public funding opportunities.

As a UIDP member benefit, . We hope you’ll take advantage of the UIDP panel sessions we’ve highlighted here, and also about recurring funding opportunities from U.S. federal program officers who participated.