Getting the Most Out of University-Industry Partnerships
Meet Anthony Boccanfuso
Traliance: What do you think is the top challenge when research universities and companies partner? What can each party do to overcome it?
Anthony: This is a common question that I am asked. Companies have a fundamentally different business model from universities, so it can take some work to get to know the other side. The top challenge varies based upon the status of the relationship – is it starting, developing or mature. If you look at the UIDP’s Guiding Principles that were developed in 2006, they remain relevant and provide excellent insight on how to develop university-industry collaborations:
- Support the mission of each partner
- Focus on fostering appropriate, long term partnerships
- Seek to streamline negotiations to ensure timely conduct of the research and development of research findings
Overcoming challenges starts by listening to what each party needs from a collaboration. In the end, high-value relationships of any kind are about understanding each other’s perspectives and working to support each other over time.
Traliance: How has the federal regulatory framework evolved in relation to universities and companies collaborating on research?
Anthony: The federal regulatory framework overall supports university-industry research collaborations, and we’ve seen growing investments over the years by the federal government in funding mechanisms and platforms that drive cross-sector collaborations. Bayh-Dole was a landmark piece of legislation nearly forty years ago that brought together universities and companies to commercialize federally-supported research.
Export control regulations, which continually change, can mediate how universities and companies interact. Of course, universities tend to be open environments with missions focused on the greater good. Most research-intensive universities now have export control programs; export control programs within large companies are typically robust and well established.
Federal regulations tend to be reactive. Many times, a negative event occurs and the federal government responds via a new policy or regulation to prevent the event from happening again. Once proposed and implemented, these regulations may not work as intended, requiring an adjustment or amendment. As you know, we’re now seeing federal agencies very concerned with “foreign influence” (see Francis Collins’ letter to the research community in August 2018). But, of course, research is a global activity. It’s not clear how this will play out.
Traliance: How do you see the EAR and ITAR’s Fundamental Research Exclusion (FRE) playing out when industry sponsors seek to fund research at universities? Do you think the FRE is a well-understood concept amongst industry partners?
Anthony: Confidential and/or proprietary information (or materials) provided by industry to a university may be export controlled. Additionally, “service” agreements between universities and companies – which now seem to be increasing in number – may not be covered by the FRE. In general, a company’s understanding of the FRE increases relative to the amount of collaboration that they have with universities. It can also vary widely depending on the role of a particular individual within a company.
Traliance: What do you think is the key to success when managing research compliance in industry-sponsored university research programs, especially in programs where the FRE does not apply?
“The ability of students and faculty to publish is a major consideration for universities. Supporting research programs where the FRE does not apply is not something many universities can begin to do ‘overnight.’”
Anthony: It is important that universities proactively consider the implications of these programs and ensure that the work is supported by their mission, policies and infrastructure. The ability of students and faculty to publish is a major consideration for universities. Supporting research programs where the FRE does not apply is not something many universities can begin to do “overnight”, but more universities are beginning to support this work relative to their growing interest in participating in national security (accepting more Department of Defense funding in some cases, some of which also involves industry), as well as economic development.
Traliance: Given your current role as the President of UIDP, what’s the most valuable aspect of UIDP membership for a university or company? UIDP offers a variety of public resources for those seeking to improve their university-industry partnerships. What is one valuable resource you would like to point out?
Anthony: UIDP membership affords academic and corporate representatives the opportunity to meet with their peers and counterparts to discuss contemporary issues affecting collaborations between the sectors. As you mention, we have a number of publicly available publications and for your audience, I would recommend the Contract Accords publication. It provides great insights into academic and corporate perspectives on a variety of focus areas for university-industry agreements and relationships (e.g., publication, confidentiality, and export control.)
Who We AreTrade Compliance Services
Traliance provides export controls consulting services for research universities and technology companies. Our focus is on the implementation of practical solutions that drive robust export controls compliance. Our services are based on a unique blend of knowledge in U.S. export controls regulations, scientific research, and business process improvement methodologies. We bring valuable experience from working with universities, non-profits, and companies of all size that span a range of industries and sectors (including satellites, drones, aerospace, advanced materials, chemicals, underwater, medical, and SaaS.)