As universities confront diminishing growth in federal funding for research and development (R&D) and industry faces increasing pressure to focus internal R&D on short-term payoffs, new partnerships are emerging that would coalesce to change the roles of universities, industry, and government in the R&D enterprise.1 Many companies are now pursuing longer-range strategies through collaboration with universities and other external R&D resources. As a result, collaborative research partnerships have multiplied and diversified enormously in recent years.
Since partnerships first began to emerge dramatically in the 1980s, well-documented studies have provided strong evidence of their benefits. According to J. David Roessner of the Georgia Institute of Technology, "The question is not whether increased university-industry collaboration can yield desirable outcomes for all concerned: clearly, it can and often does."2
Just as the value of research partnerships has become clear, barriers to effective partnering have also become apparent. While it is true that certain academic institutions and companies have learned to organize and manage collaborative programs with a high degree of sophistication, other organizations have faced recurring barriers. Wider dissemination of constructive approaches that have been devised in specific cases can lead to a broader appreciation of stumbling blocks and creative ways around them. Barriers relate to the following aspects of collaboration:
disposition of intellectual property and "background" rights;
publication, copyright, and confidentiality concerns;
regulation, liability, and tax law issues;
various worries regarding foreign access;
matters of graduate student involvement; and
infrastructure-related impediments to inter-disciplinary and inter-departmental research.
In March 1998, the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable, in cooperation with the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy organized a workshop to discuss barriers to university-industry cooperation and concrete approaches to overcoming them. The Research Roundtable is sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.
The workshop was designed to bring together a small group of individuals with extensive experience in formulating and managing collaborative research across sectors (see agenda in Appendix D). The discussion featured real-life examples of institutional experiences, with emphasis placed on sharing the outcomes of policy and programmatic decisions. This report covers the major themes and insights from the workshop; it is not, however, a comprehensive study of university-industry collaboration. Those persons who made presentations also reviewed the report and provided many useful suggestions; the report should not be viewed as a consensus document or conference proceedings.
This activity reflects the Research Roundtable's longstanding interest in fostering dialogue to achieve the maximum national benefit from effective university-industry research interactions.3 The workshop was supported by three federal agencies that have programs featuring collaboration across research sectors: the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation.