Establishing and maintaining successful industry partnerships at research universities
Universities and industry have had a long history of collaboration. As public funding for higher education continues to decline, universities have been forced to aggressively seek new sources of private funding in order to survive. This qualitative research study examined the organizational structures and processes used by a purposefully selected sample of American universities that have been successful in establishing and maintaining partnerships with industry utilizing the grounded theory tradition.
Institutional leaders from the corporate relations offices from 15 of the top research universities in America (based on total research expenditures and industry funded research expenditures) were interviewed to understand just how their institutions established and maintained successful partnerships with industry. The interview data collected were analyzed using open, axial, and selective coding to generate a process theory of just how these institutions successfully partnered with industry.
The major themes identified through a paradigm model that was developed were: (1) research universities that were successful at establishing and maintaining successful partnerships with industry had a central corporate relations organization whose primary responsibility was to locate, secure, and maintain partnerships with industry; and (2) these universities tended to utilize formal and regular communication mechanisms between the central corporate relations organization and other institutional units that interacted with industry.
The core category identified through selective coding was mutually beneficial partnerships. Having the relationship benefit both the university and the corporation was deemed as essential in maintaining a long term relationship. A set of conditional propositions were developed regarding the organizational structures and processes these universities utilized to support the successful establishment and maintenance of partnerships with industry, which appeared to be applicable regardless of the institution's overall size or institutional complexity.
The process theory generated, which was grounded in the data, showed that there was no "one size fits all" approach; however, in order to establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with industry, universities needed to proactively manage their relationships with industry, putting processes and organizational structures in place to reduce or eliminate the potential risks that exist while maximizing the benefits to both the university and to industry.
Colleges & universities;
Research & development--R&D;
0745: Higher education
0277: School finance