Innovation Junkies Podcast

BONUS: Enterprise University Collaborations

The Jeffs dig into how enterprises can interact & collaborate with universities in research, sponsor programs & tech transfer. Topics include: why enterprises & universities should work together, how enterprises can work with a local university tech transfers for research & innovation growth, & collaboration around submitting for federal funding.

Jeff Standridge: This is Jeff Standridge and this is the Innovation Junkies Podcast. If you want to drastically improve your business, learn proven growth strategy that generates sustained results for your organization, you’ve come to the right place. Over the next half hour we’re going to be sharing specific strategies, tactics and tips that you can use to grow your business. No matter the size, no matter the industry, no matter the geography. We’ll be talking about everything from sales and marketing, the organizational, operational and leadership effectiveness, the innovation, digital transformation, everything in between. Routinely we’ll bring in a top mover and shaker. Someone who’s done something unbelievable with his or her business. We’ll dig deep. We’ll uncover specific strategies, tactics and tools that they’ve used to help you achieve your business goals. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies Podcast.

Hey guys, if you’re looking to put your business on the fast track to achieving sustained strategic growth, this episode is sponsored by the team at Innovation Junkie. To learn more about our strategic growth diagnostic, go to innovationjunkie.com/diagnostic. Now let’s get on with the show.

Jeff Standridge: Hey guys. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies Podcast. I’m Jeff Standridge.

Jeff Amerine: This is Jeff Amerine. Glad to be with you again.

Jeff Standridge: So today’s a bonus episode. We’re going to be talking about how medium to large enterprises can collaborate with universities. Jeff, I know you’ve had a lot of experience with serving as a tech transfer officer. So why don’t you kick us off on this episode?

Jeff Amerine: Sure. One of the things that’s really interesting that’s occurred is medium to large enterprises, typically can’t do all the research and development and explore all the possibilities for innovation that may be of interest. And the other aspect of that is universities have been under pressure for the past 15 years to expand what they get for research support and commercialization support from the federal government, to have stronger industrial and commercial relationships. So there’s an interesting opportunity for medium to large enterprises to work closely with local universities, with their tech transfer, their tech commercialization functions, to figure out what sort of interesting research exists that can catalyze innovation within their companies. And more importantly, as part of that, to talk about sponsored research, directed, sponsored research, to solve problems that may be intractable or other things where they’re not able to do it within the four walls of their own business. So I think there’s a real opportunity there.

Jeff Standridge: So it could be taking advantage of existing research where they say, oh wow, this is already going on over there. And they have some intellectual property or they have some know-how, or it could be to your point sponsored research where we know that they’ve got capabilities and we go to them as a medium or large enterprise and say, we need some help studying this or researching this.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, that’s exactly it. That’s exactly it. Classic technology push, where you’re trying to find whether they’ve got some core technology, how do we make that fit within use cases that we think would be interesting for innovation versus demand-pull. Universities are all trying to get better at the demand-pull side where they’re being more responsive, they’re trying to do more outreach. They’re trying to align the research objectives that their faculty have with the needs of industry, rather than it just being sort of fundamental areas of interest.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah. And I guess as well, it’s kind of also plays into what I’d call the contingent workforce play, where if I build an R and D function, I’ve got committed resources with fixed expenses that I’m having to continually invest in. Whereas when I engage the services of a university researcher, it’s more of a contingent workforce based upon variable expenses, if you will, based upon what they’re researching and what my needs are at the time.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, absolutely. That’s exactly it. It is truly a flex workforce and you want to make sure that there’s good boundaries and controls on the relationship so you understand what you’re going to get delivered. But the other thing it opens up is collaboration around submitting for additional federal dollars in the form of small business innovative research awards, as TTRs, those are great opportunities for collaboration where the federal government says, well, you’re pushing something that’s very interesting from a programmatic standpoint. Nationally, you’ve got a company sponsor, you’ve got the university researcher behind it. That’s a very effective way to have a force multiplier around the funding, around really interesting areas of innovation.

Jeff Standridge: And often when those federal funds are received for specific projects, there are collaborating state funds that are available to augment those. I know in the state of Arkansas, we do that through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. So, to your point, not only is there the opportunity for optimizing your expenses with a flex or contingent workforce, there’s the opportunity to augment your actual research funds with state and federal dollars.

Jeff Amerine: Exactly, exactly. And the universities have all, mostly all become a lot more flexible in terms of things like intellectual property ownership. There was a time where there was significant concern around, well we can’t necessarily do contract work for hire because it can impact our tax refund status. For the most part, they’ve worked through those legal traps. They can be a lot more direct on saying, well listen, univer… industry partner, if you fund this, it can be set up to where you’ve got a clear option to the intellectual property if you want it at the end. And so there’s not this mystery of, we paid for a bunch of stuff, and we’re not sure if we’ll even have the rights to it at the backend. All the universities in the country have gotten a little better at that over the past five years in particular.

Jeff Standridge: So talk me through the process. So I’m a chief product officer or I’m a chief technology officer and I want to begin exploring ways and opportunities to collaborate, whether it’s with a local university or a university that’s doing some things that I’ve read about that relate to my business, what I do? How do I go about that?

Jeff Amerine: Yeah. So a couple of ways, one is every major university in the country, whether they’re public or private will typically have a tech transfer, a tech commercialization function that will have intellectual property matters posted. So a good way to scan to see what’s available in existing technology is to go through what they have posted online at their website. And in the case of University of Arkansas, just as an example that I’m very familiar with, you could go to the technology ventures website and you’d see these intellectual property manner… matters listed in good summary. That’s one way to do it. And then when you find something of interest, you can have conversations with that tech commercialization office, they’ll line you up with the researchers that are actively working on it and the dialogue can begin. The other way is most universities also have a industry liaison office as well, where they’re looking to build relationships for collaborative research in effect.
And you can reach out to those people as well and say, hey this is the problem we’re trying to solve. Who do you have within the academic structure of the researchers that would be interested or that could be a good collaborator for this? And then the third way is just to follow closely what the university is publishing. A lot of times they’ll have something that’s effectively like a PR Newswire internally that will post really interesting research areas. For example, if you were interested in graphing power production, Dr. Phil [Thibodeau 00:07:41] out there has published a bunch of stuff recently that gets national coverage just because it’s groundbreaking.
So you start with, these are the things, the areas of innovation we think we have, you look at local or even national universities. You don’t have to be constrained by geography. You talk to the tech transfer offices, you reach out to their industrial liaisons. You begin to track those professors that have stuff that would be of interest. And then you go through the process of trying to figure out how you can consummate some kind of relationship that makes sense.

Jeff Standridge: And that industry liaison usually falls under the moniker of office of sponsored programs or something like that?

Jeff Amerine: It can either be that or it can be under a vice-chancellor that might be in charge of economic development and entrepreneurship, but it’s typically not hard to find. Most of the university websites, if you did a search on that, or for that matter, if you just called a university relations, their PR folks and say, hey this is what I think I need, who do I need to talk to? They’ll be able to help you out as well.

Jeff Standridge: Fantastic. So today we’re talking about how mid-size to large enterprises can interact and collaborate with universities in the areas of sponsor programs, research tech transfer and what have you. Great stuff, Jeff, thank you for sharing that with us.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it would be of value and this is something that we’ve got a lot of depth on, so reach out to us if you have any questions at all, we can go as deep on this subject as you want to go, and it’s not constrained to just small businesses. And I would encourage our listeners not to feel any apprehension of trying to work with the universities. They are looking for these types of relationships.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, you make a great point. You yourself having served as one of those tech transfer and commercialization officers, we have others in our network and relationships from medical device to therapeutics, all the way through to agriculture, supply chain, et cetera. So, happy to help-

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, it’s across the spectrum of possibility, for sure.

Jeff Standridge: Happy to help form those relationships and even do some of the legwork for our listeners out there. So give us a shout. Thank you so much, Jeff. We’ll see you on the next episode.

Jeff Amerine: Absolutely. Sounds great.
Hey listeners, this is Jeff Amerine and we want to thank you for tuning in. We sincerely appreciate your time. If you’re enjoying the Innovation Junkies Podcast, please do us a huge favor. Click the subscribe button right now and leave us a review. It would mean the world to both of us. And don’t forget to share us on social media.

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