UC Berkeley’s view on the value of industrial partnerships

The following expert from a report for UC Berkeley Senate Task Force provides a neat summary of the broad benefits of university-industry partnerships:

Enhanced Impact of Research: Working with industry can enhance the impact and importance of research conducted at Berkeley. In many fields, especially engineering, industrial partners have information about important real world problems that may be quite useful for the research agenda of Berkeley researchers. While our faculty may be very well placed to identify research questions that are intellectually interesting and challenging, we can benefit from additional input regarding which problems may be more important in the real world for greater research impact. This is especially true if research is funded simultaneously by a number of companies that occupy and compete within the same market segment. In those situations, frequently encountered in research centers research tends to gravitate towards pre-competitive subjects, ensuring that valuable university effort is not narrowly focused on short-term results. In some cases, industry also pushes the state of the art, making it especially important for Berkeley researchers to be aware of what industry has accomplished and what they are currently trying to achieve, so our research efforts can complement rather than duplicate those of industry. Although not central to the university objectives of basic research, collaborations can also help the public good by facilitating and accelerating technology transfer if the research results prove valuable in practice, and have immediate practical impact. In this context we recognize that while impact can be measured in many forms (such as citations), successful technology transfer of research ideas is one valid measure of research relevance to society.

Other Benefits: Industrial partners can provide access to valuable data. They also can provide a reality check on any assumptions made by researchers. Working with industrial partners can help students build valuable professional skills. While the academic research environment can be quite unstructured, encouraging creativity, working with industry can provide additional structure that encourages students to make clear presentations to varied audiences, work in teams, and be subject to disciplined design reviews. These experiences can be very valuable to students, regardless of their future career choices. Industrial participants sometimes help advise students and teach at Berkeley, therefore reaching wider academic audiences. Developing working relationships with industrial partners can greatly facilitate job placement for students. These relationships can be especially valuable in providing attractive jobs for all students when they graduate, not just the “star” students who achieve greater visibility through conferences and publications”

Full report: Report by UC Berkeley Senate Task Force on University-Industry Partnerships: Principles and Guidelines for Large-Scale Collaborations between the University and Industry, Government, and Foundations

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