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The Government Role in Civilian Technology: Building a New Alliance
Between late 1988 and early 1991, one company formed an average of one new collaboration per month to support its drug discovery efforts. These collaborative ventures were formed in addition to grants to academic investigators and departments, contracts for clinical evaluation of new drugs, and other types of relationships with universities. Collaborators were selected on the basis of careful review, which includes an assessment of how well the goals of the university partners matched the targets specified in the pharmaceutical company's drug discovery portfolio. In biotechnology firms, relationships with universities are often influenced by the industry's strong dependence on basic research conducted by academic and government investigators.
Today, many established and start-up biotechnology firms continue to view universities as a basic research arm, while they devote nearly all of their in-house efforts to applied research. One biotechnology company, for example, funds more than 100 collaborative ventures with universities in the United States, Western Europe, Japan, and Canada. The company also supports academic researchers in areas closely aligned with its product development goals. These projects, however, constitute a small part of its collaborative research arrangements with universities. Company resources are devoted to identifying and licensing the products of university research that have commercial potential. Moreover, it was noted that almost all first-generation biotechnology products, such as human growth hormone and insulin, can be traced to university research.
Through collaborative R&D, firms maintain access to technology developments in academic laboratories. Many therapeutic products were developed by these broad-based research relationships from collaborative ventures with universities, participants noted. In contrast, less product development for pharmaceutical firms has resulted.
Characteristics of Effective Collaboration
Successful collaborative ventures involving industry and universities usually begin with close interaction between personnel in each institution. Several workshop participants indicated that laboratory scientists are more likely to identify the benefits of joint research than company managers and university administrators. Scientists also are more likely to devise specific research plans, participants asserted. One participant advised against negotiating financial and legal details of R&D ventures until scientists have established a tentative research agenda.
Industrial R&D managers have an important role to play in ensuring successful collaboration. Ideally, managers should nurture relationships with academic researchers and their institutions, offer direction for research projects as required, and have their performance evaluated accordingly, one