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APLU Report: Strengthening University-Industry Collaboration Vital to U.S. Competitive Edge in Innovation

January 13, 2022

Washington, D.C.— Drawing on in-depth interviews with university and industry leaders, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities today released a report outlining steps universities, industry, and policymakers can take to strengthen collaboration among higher education and industry to advance U.S. innovation and competitiveness.

[Read the report: Driving U.S. Competitiveness Through Improved University-Industry Partnerships]


“Collaboration between research universities and industry has played a central role in fueling the economic competitiveness of the United States,” said University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, who previously chaired APLU’s Commission on Economic and Community Engagement. “We’ve developed a report that shines a fresh spotlight on this partnership and sparks conversation about further strengthening this powerful engine of economic growth and prosperity.”

“Even as federal investment in research and development as a share of GDP has declined in recent decades, industry investment in our nation’s research and development has soared,” said Sheila Martin, Vice President of Economic Development & Community Engagement at APLU. “But with just 6 percent of university research and development funding coming from industry, there’s a massive opportunity to turbocharge U.S. innovation by addressing barriers to collaboration as universities and industry work together to develop life-saving cures and life-changing innovations.”

The report details the significant value universities can provide industry in partnerships, including access to: cutting-edge labs and facilities, opportunities to pursue federal research funding, students who build companies’ talent pipeline, and access to interdisciplinary solutions to vexing problems facing industry, among other things. A strong base of research demonstrates that firms collaborating with universities have higher innovation productivity and sales. For universities, partnerships with industry offer opportunities for additional applied research, unique research assets, co-investment in long-term research in strategic priority areas, among other benefits.

Still, barriers can hamper closer collaboration. Misaligned goals and incentives, limited capacity, and attitudes toward intellectual property can reduce research opportunities. Nevertheless, if industry and universities invest in partnerships, they can gain mutual trust and professional respect, develop aligned goals, identify shared long-term objectives, cultivate faculty with industry experience, and develop mutually agreed-upon expectations, which enable strong, long-lasting partnerships.

“Public research universities are eager to partner with industry to move groundbreaking research to the marketplace.” said Washington State University Vice President for Research Christopher Keane, past chair of APLU’s Council on Research. “Universities are actively examining how they can instill an entrepreneurial culture and support their faculty in this work.”

The report also details policies lawmakers at the local, state, and federal levels can take to foster stronger university-industry partnerships.

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