University - Industry Collaboration
- A Tool to Facilitate Transfer of Technology

Ms. P. Meenakshi
Part-time Ph.D Scholar in Management
Madurai Kamaraj University
Assistant Professor
AR School of Business, Dindigul

Mr. T.Saravanan
Assistant Professor
AR school of Business, Dindigul
Esvel Management Solutions, Chennai


The Industry-university collaboration may range from more informal mechanisms, which include publication of research results, employee mobility or informal exchanges between scientists to more formal contractual mechanisms in which longer-term relationships are established. This paper will deal primarily with the latter type of mechanisms, i.e. situations in which industry and university enter into formal relations in the field of scientific and technological research and development.

Industry may be encouraged to collaborate with university directly for the development of human resources. This could happen in the areas of creating infrastructure and faculty sharing. The industry belonging to a specific discipline or related disciplines shall be encouraged to establish state of the art Research and Training centers to develop  the necessary specialized man power.

This paper aims at delivering a new theoretical motivation for industry-university learning procedure as a natural way out from the managerial problem of trying to perform both exploration and exploitation within the industry and university.

This paper has been written to highlight the industry-university collaboration for the purpose of more effective and mutually beneficial relationship between the industry and university.  It proposes to prepare a checklist for the purpose.

An effective collaboration may focus on:

    • The researchers to understand the technological gaps.
    • The researchers to know the emerging requirements of the industry.
    • To facilitate technology transfer from industry to university
    • To create awareness about Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
    • To facilitate the industry to understand the capabilities of the University and thereby reduce the cost of acquiring technology.
    • The research scholars to benefit from the collaboration


Indian higher education needs to adopt some global practices to attain international quality standards.  One such global practice is the University-Industry collaboration.  Both University and Industry should collaborate in the best interest of both the parties. Through such collaboration, the industry can get greater returns and can attempt solutions for their problems at lower cost.  The University, in the process, can update and upgrade its infrastructure and the research work of the university will become more focused and meaningful.  At present, lot of research in the academic world is without focus either conceptually or in practice. If the industry is funding and encouraging university research, then the university is obligated in terms of research output. Academics will get exposed to the industry practices in addressing their issues and the concepts may get further refined in the interest of the academics.

University – Industry Collaboration – International Experiences:

Since the twenty first century, university researchers had collaborated with industrial scientists on marketable projects and this had become the current phenomenon. In 1970 s the United States government had forcefully promoted the arrangement of university and industrial researchers through specified funding programs. The National Science Foundation sponsored both the University- Industry co-operative research projects programs (U/ICRP) and the University-Industry research centers programs (U/IRCP). Both began as pilot programs in 1972 and prolonged up to 1978.

At the initial stage, for two years, the National Science Foundation was providing the fiscal support for the University – Industry co-operative research projects with the intention that the university research centers would become self supporting in the course of time.

The research centers consist of an interdisciplinary team of university faculty and business representatives. The government, in alliance with universities and industry, provided one year of planning and five years of decreasing operational funds.  Generally, universities contributed through a waiver of overhead support for the centers and business houses paid membership fees to participate in the programme.

As of February 2002, there were 56 operational centers dedicated to materials science, biotechnology and health care, energy, manufacturing, agriculture, electronics, and chemistry.  To identify and train future employees, Industry required collaborating with universities.  As global economies shifted, industries required right of entry to ability who created the progressive knowledge and technology central to university research.  Government provided considerable capital investments to industry in order to develop technology and knowledge creation.  However, declining federal, state, and local funds, as well as increased competition for money allocated to human services, has forced university researchers to seek new sponsors.

In 2002 industry-sponsored research accounted for 8 percent of total university research funding.  These contributions occur through grants, contracts such as consulting agreements and collaborative training programs.  The areas most liked and benefited commercially from these relationships are agriculture, biotechnology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, and medicine. Furthermore, about half of the biotechnology firms had been collaborated with universities and financially one- fourth of all funding was credited for biotechnology research.

The research relationship between universities and companies was mutually beneficial and enabled both the entities to sustain growth in their areas.  While a company tried on university researchers for product innovations, faculty gained prestige through increased external research funds.  Just as industry needed innovative ideas to ensure profits, researchers needed additional research funding to sustain faculty productivity.

During February 2002, the National Science Foundation also provided funds for industry – university collaborations in engineering for twenty centers. These centers were hybrids that combined basic with applied research projects, and they received National science foundation support for up to eleven years. Fundamental and applied research was merged in University-Industry research collaborations. Incremental research and product development often occurred in industrial labs. However, industry scientists reported that when they were involved in breakthrough discoveries, it was important to maintain close alliances with university researchers, so that they could gain a better understanding of the science which was the foundation for the discovery.

Academic-industry research relationships took other forms, as well.  For example, some companies gifted scientific equipment to university researchers to conduct their studies. Although it was called gifting, companies expected that the university researchers would somehow repay their kindness by communicating the progressive research results related to the use of the equipment. This gave companies an edge in innovation, as they could capitalize on the research results and created new and potentially profitable products.

Frequently, university-industry research collaborations took the form of clinical trials for drugs and medical devices. Universities provided the technical expertise, patients and physical space to conduct clinical trials while companies supplied the drugs, equipment (both diagnostic and therapeutic), and money to operate the trials.  Thus, the activities and support of the industry & university complemented each other and mutually were beneficial.

University-industry collaboration – Indian Experiences:

Multinational companies are showing interest to collaborate with the academic institutions in India.  For example IBM India had announced a challenge called, Blue Battle, for the 25 leading engineering colleges across India.  This challenge made the students to work with the latest cutting edge technologies and to develop innovative solutions.  Some of the technologies used in the project were:

  • SOA
  • Multi-Core Architecture
  • Enterprise Computing
  • Web 2.0
  • Cloud computing, etc.  

These technologies were used to train the students and researchers.  They learnt the technologies which were beyond their learning in their normal academic setting.  Further they acquired skills needed to work in teams under stress in a professional manner.  According to, Amol Mahamuni, Program Director for IBM's University Relations, this will be a close collaborative effort between the experts from IBM and the academic faculty.  

In India, IBM Research actively seeks collaboration and good relationships with Indian Universities. IBM Research goal is to develop long-term, mutually beneficial collaborative relationships with the faculty and students of the Indian academia by fostering advanced research, promoting university-industry exchanges, providing infrastructure and technology support, and cultivating tomorrow's world-class researchers.

The research center, which is the collaborative effort of IBM and the respective university / college, was well-defined and elaborates the collaborative relationship between the individual faculty members of the university and the IBM researchers.

They offered numerous resources to academia under the umbrella of such collaborations: faculty research awards, equipment grants, Sabbatical opportunities, conference sponsorships, student internships, student project training, PhD fellowships etc. Most of their University Relations programs required an active internal IBM Research collaborator who also acted as sponsor or nominator for IBM funding.

Collaborative research programs-

All Industry programs are developed under the Open Collaborative Research (OCR)  program would be made available as open source software code or as openly published papers or as royalty-free patents. Some of recent OCR engagements are:

  • IBM and National Institute of Design (NID): 
  • IBM AND NID has signed the Open Collaborative Research agreement that was focused on ethnography and user research had identified the communication needs, preferences and purposes of different user communities from different regions in India. The project has identified the preferred modalities of communication for various ethnic groups and was expected to feed inputs to the IIT Bombay Open Collaborative Research.

  • IBM and IIT Bombay:
  • IBM and IIT Bombay have signed an Open Collaborative Research in the area of multi-modal platform for the next billion populations to derive an interface on mobile devices. Specifically, the collaboration aims to advance research in developing software components to build integrated solutions that combine pictorial, iconic, text and audio modalities of interaction and validate their usability with the end users. The less – literate and low-income users are not using IT sector very potentially.

  • IBM and IIT Madras & IIT Kharagpur:
  • IBM and IIT Madras and IIT Kharagpur have signed an Open Collaborative Research and agreed to develop the systems and make power grids more efficient and resilient in a smart grid environment.  The systems have taken part and analyzed the data to help grid operators predict operational needs. IBM is working with the two institutions and developing open system design in order to boost up the potential of Phase Measurement Units (PMUs).  IBM researchers and institute students looking ahead to develop network architectures to reliably collect data from PMUs, as well as analytical tools that process the data for grid operators. IIT Kharagpur will develop the new power system applications and software systems for the project.  IIT Madras will focus on the networking architecture to ensure the data collected from different locations makes it to a central location.  The pair planning was developed for a test bed to evaluate network architecture and open system designs for the smart grid.

Advantage of Universities – Industries Collaboration:

A number of benefits emerged from the fruitful university –industry relationship which had positive impact on society, university and also industry.

  • Benefits to Society:
  • The University-Industry partnership has lead to emergence of new industries that have improved the image of the country globally. Growth of new industries has a positive impact in the development of National, State, and Local Tax Bases. Societies are benefited from university-industry research relationships through innovative products and technologies. Industry-sponsored university research is often developed into practical applications that benefit society.

    These applications included new improved medical devices, techniques, and therapies; efficient energy development; and innovative electronic technologies such as computers and DVD players.

  • Benefits to University:
  • The University-Industry collaboration provides a number of benefits to the University.  Some universities seek industrial partnerships because of the potential financial rewards of patents and licenses that result from the commercialization of academic research. This provided a means by which universities could decrease the governmental funding gap. Patents generated through industry-sponsored research are sometimes shared between companies and universities. The intent is that the university will use patent revenues to support activities that are not market oriented, such as the teaching mission of institutions.

    Additionally, the researchers and teachers of the university are benefited through the access to progressive scientific equipments are available in university labs. This equipment enables faculty to pursue additional lines of research that, ultimately, contribute to faculty productivity such as additional external funds as well as increased publications. Both of these elements combine to enhance institutional prestige–an important component used by institutions to attract top students, establish their legitimacy, and acquire available public funds. Universities also improved opportunities to find future employment for undergraduate and graduate students through university-industry connections.

  • Benefits to industry:
  • University-industry collaborations can stimulate company's internal research and development programs. University researchers help industrial scientists identify current research that might be useful for the design and development of innovative processes and potential products.

    This first look at pro research gives companies a competitive edge because it decreases the time it takes to move a potential product from the laboratory to the market, which strengthens international economic competition. The association between universities and company sponsors also enhances a company's reputation.

    Universities provide inexpensive lab space to conduct industrial research. One area where this is critical is in the arena of clinical trials. Medical companies use university partnerships to conduct clinical trials of drugs, devices, and emergent techniques. This is less costly for industry because university hospitals have access to large numbers of patients.

    Finally, university-industry research relationships strengthen companies' research and development (R&D). Either through the generation of innovative products developed from current research or through a redirection of industrial development to more profitable lines, R&D is positively affected. University researchers also help industry scientists solve design and technical problems. Often, company employees learn new research techniques with their university partners.

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Source: E-mail January 2, 2013


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