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APLU report outlines steps for collaboration to advance US innovation

March 24, 2022

There is an opportunity to turbocharge U.S. innovation by addressing barriers to collaboration between research universities and industry, according to Sheila Martin, vice president of economic development and community engagement at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). Details on the value universities can provide to industry in partnership are explained in APLU’s report, Driving U.S. Competitiveness Through Improved University-Industry Partnerships. It also includes policies lawmakers can take to foster stronger university-industry partnerships.

The report notes that although industry R&D spending has risen, just 1 percent of total industry R&D is spent on formal research collaborations with universities and only 6 percent of university research funding comes from industry. After conducting a series of key informant interviews with individuals from universities and industry, APLU set out to identify ways to “recouple university and industry research with the twin goals of solving important societal problems and generating renewed competitiveness for the U.S. economy.”

Universities can provide access to cutting-edge labs and facilities, opportunities to pursue federal research funding, students for the talent pipeline, and access interdisciplinary solutions to problems facing industry. In turn, industry offers opportunities for additional applied research, unique research assets, and co-investment in long-term research in strategic priority areas among other benefits.

Although interviewees had a mixed view of the usefulness of university-industry research consortia, other mechanisms such as university centers and institutes that provide a focal point for communicating technology strengths to industry and offer strategic areas of focus for specialized research, investment, and support were identified as effective mechanisms for securing, establishing and expanding research collaborations.

Policy levers that could help advance the agenda outlined in the report include enhanced funding for translational research and for programs that explicitly support industry-university collaborative research; expanded partnerships between federal funding agencies and industry to co-fund university research in strategic areas; and, incentivized regional collaborations among universities, industry and state and local economic development organizations.

The full APLU report is available here.

r&d, research, higher ed, universities, industry