Professional Education and Career Blog

How to Establish a Successful Corporate / University Partnership and Get the Most Out Of It

partnershipIndustry and higher education have formed successful partnerships since the early days of the industrial revolution, when industry would bring together their practical knowledge with the university’s broad research knowledge. Both could benefit from the cross-cultural trading of information. Partnerships such as these can be more beneficial than ever, but too often companies pursue a collaboration without a clear plan in place. By following a few guidelines, both companies and universities can achieve maximal results.

The Elements of a Successful Partnership

  • Be Clear On Your Goals. The most important aspect of the partnership to be clear up front on what goals you’re looking to achieve. Perhaps it’s some element of an industry you want to focus on, or general research in a particular area. Often when schools and companies come together, they find a whole smorgasbord of interesting assets they want to pursue, but diffusion of focus on too many areas can lead to less actually being accomplished.
  • Choose The School Wisely. The academic institution should have a good reputation and up-to-date skills. Check their rankings on national tests, and look for a school with transparent assessments of their students and faculty.
  • The School Should Preferably Have Staff Dedicated to Partnerships. A school with only a lukewarm commitment to partnerships may not devote the time or attention needed to make it successful.
  • Long-Term Relationships with Flexibility Tend to Work Best. New products can take time to come to fruition, and a long-term outlook helps focus toward delivering innovative solutions. Many times corporate R&D looks toward short-term immediate needs, and the industries are looking toward universities to guide them on the long-term trends that could come from the frontiers of research.
  • Put the Right People in Charge. It’s critical to find people who can speak the same language as both corporate culture and the university culture. The great strength of a corporate-university partnership is the cross-fertilization of ideas, which should be encouraged whenever possible. The way to ensure this is to have people in place who can facilitate the two sides to open dialogues and share creativity and knowledge. The facilitators should be high enough up in the company and have sufficient authority to move things forward.
  • Don’t be Excessively Results-Oriented. It will take time for the partnership to gel together and bear fruit. The goal of the partnership is to allow creativity and innovation to flourish from the mix of cultures, and trying to ramrod innovation to a schedule could make the whole exercise fail. Having goals is not necessarily bad, but they should be goals with specific, known outcomes that can be reasonably scheduled, within a looser framework. Failure is a key part in learning. “What workeda” is often built upon “what didn’t work.”
  • Ensure That Top Management is On Board. There should be a culture of support established that treats the partnership as important to the company’s future. The players in the partnership shouldn’t feel as though management is constantly wondering what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Keep in mind that the products being sold today were the research projects of someone yesterday.groupshake

A Bright Future

By balancing the different cultures of both corporations and universities, very valuable partnerships can be formed that are beneficial to both institutions, both in the short run and the long run. With competitors looking for any advantage they can gain, often it’s a question of “when” not “if” you will form a corporate-university partnership. With the right strategy and the right fit, both can find a very rewarding relationship.