10 Trends to Guide University Leaders in Growing Industry Partnerships


10 Trends to Guide University Leaders in Growing Industry Partnerships

10 Trends to Guide University Leaders in Growing Industry Partnerships

Research leaders recognize that growing research expenditures requires diversifying beyond federal funding opportunities. Industry partnerships hold promise—but require universities to evolve how they approach potential partners. The good news is that companies are eager to expand partnership beyond sponsored research so they can access the full spectrum of university assets—especially talent.

This infographic outlines ten trends universities should keep in mind to better understand industry’s needs and create compelling opportunities that attract new corporate sponsors.


Collaborative research spaces are more appealing to companies when universities provide transit and programming to draw talent in.

University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign hosts career fairs targeted at employment and internship opportunities at its research park.

Talent serves as the gateway for companies, as they want access to skilled talent across undergraduate, graduate, and faculty pools.

Michigan Technological University’s Corporate Council assembles career services, research, advancement, and athletics to promote their talent offerings in a coordinated fashion.

Organizational Design

A centralized access point for industry engagements presents a single face to market, making it easier for companies to navigate partnership opportunities and for institutions to manage relationships.

University of Michigan’s Business Engagement Center unites advancement and research industry relations to nurture broader partnerships with companies.

Industry disproportionately concentrates its research funding on applied and developmental
functions that require dedicated university research structures to access and manage.

University of Memphis’s FedEx Institute of Technology promotes applied research expertise to attract logistics-and systems-focused partners.


Large companies are decelerating their investments in university intellectual property given growing doubt of its commercial viability.

73% of technology transfer offices operate at a net loss, 16% break even, and only 11% generate a profit.

Start-ups yield greater value as investors pursue evidence of commercial viability around an innovation as well as talent and organizational structure to ease transition to market.

University of Alaska-Anchorage designs innovation ecosystems targeted at supplying venture capital to their start-ups to address limited start-up resources
in Anchorage.

Efficient contracting processes signal institutional openness and entrepreneurial culture to industry partners but do not necessarily improve contract speeds.

While templatized agreements boost initial industry interest in partnerships, they do not improve contracting speed as many institutions report that 75% of their industry partners prefer to negotiate license agreements upon project completion.

Economic Development

Federal funding often adds incentives for university-industry collaboration to promote research commercialization.

East Carolina University’s Office of National
Security and Industry Initiatives pursues joint
government and industry defense research.

State economic development investments reward
university-industry collaborations to support
innovation and job growth.

Virginia Tech partnered with state and local economic development agencies to win Amazon’s HQ2.

Interinstitutional collaborations increase scope
and clout of industry-university partnerships.

Temple University collaborates with other Philadelphia research institutions through BioStrategy Partners to promote their collective biomedical research.

See how universities organize their industry partnership offices in our full whitepaper.

Want more university research resources?

This report examines three models of corporate and industry engagement functions and institutions: an integrated model for corporate relations, a concierge service for corporations, and a decentralized structure that embeds corporate relations in separate institutional offices and departments.

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