Financial & practical support for projects

Since I am an academic, I would like to ask the Community members what they consider to be the main characteristics a project should have in order to obtain financial and practical support from the world of industry… ranking from what they need most to least (feasibility? startup costs? novelty?)…

Your thoughts would be gratefully received.

Many thanks,
Elena.

Hi Elena,

Excellent question!!!

From my personal experience - I believe an important aspect in securing research funds from industry is to make sure you are helping industry answer research questions that are critical to their core business needs or future plans. Therefore, it is advisable to involve industry in defining the project aims, objectives, deliverables and milestones as early as possible.

Best wishes,

Nick

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Agreed with Nicolas.
One should “think like an industry” to understand why company owners should support any study. Would you put your own money and time into this? Why? what to do expect out and when? This needs to be clearly explained to the Co. decision makers.

Solving the company acute problem is maybe the best option, but companies usually are not easily tell what problems they might have. Also there is a risk that with NDA or without (companies might be rude demanding your soul deposit in exchange to promises), your great idea might “leak out” and they can do that in house rather then paying to the university (this depends on the country and culture though). Hence as I wrote in my other post - make a provisional patent (US) or some other protection first before you open your thoughts.

Michael

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Hi Michael - a great follow up.

Yeah for sure - any academic needs to have some form of NDA before entering into a explorative discussion with industry. I would also encourage all researchers to complete an IDF for potentially patentable ideas that have preliminary data, which validates the premise of the idea.

Additionally, I would suggest reaching out to your respective University Knowledge Exploitation unit to help negotiate discussion with external stakeholders.

Thank you Nicholas. Very useful points. The early involvement of industry allows for a faster and more successful path… and finding answers to good questions is pivotal,
reinforcing the idea of ​​a close collaboration from the beginning ( it is not always easy). In your experience, what is the most common and/or successfull channel through which industries request the support of the academia (e.g. European projects, meeting at congresses, word of mouth from colleagues).
Thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts!

This is also true. Thank you so much, Micheal, for pointing out this issue. I had some colleagues with a bad experience in these terms: the company with which they collaborated and with which they had shared data and ideas (without “protection”) had then patented without including them. Could you please explain better what is a “provisional” patent?
Thank you for the nice discussion!

Ciao Elena, yes, this happens all around the world.

“Provisional patent”: this is a US feature. You can apply de facto any materials (even a powerpoint presentation) with provisional application. Its fee starts from about 65$ if you do yourself, but hiring a US Pat.Attorney is recommended if you are not familiar with the procedure. The documents content is not checked neither evaluated, you just book the thing. Application is not public.
You will get a number and 1 year grace period to decide if you go for a normal patent which can be based on this and with the proper priority date. If you do not, the application is cancelled and no priority can be claimed after. The advantage is that you can “sell” your idea to potential user as they cannot claim their own patent on the same thing as you have the priority date.
If you need more details, just consult USPTO site. But I think you see the idea (I used this several times :wink: ).
M.

Hi Elena,

In my experience, the best and most successful academia-industry collaborations are the ones that start off relatively low-level (in terms of expectations) as this allows the partnership to develop and strengthen before moving on to larger projects that have both significant funding and expectations attached to them. Sometimes a jointly supervised postgraduate research project (e.g. MSc project) is a good place to start.

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Hello

Speaking from the industry point of view, I strongly agree with what Nicholas Dunne wrote, especially if there is interest in long term collaboration. Starting from a student or postdoc project helps to build a relationship and get used to working with each other. Academia and industry often have very different expectations in the beginning.

The previous discussion here was more related to patents – you can of course obtain funds for your research by licensing etc. (which would be a great success), but this is less probable to result in a joint project. More likely, the company will acquire the IP rights and launch its own development project to bring the idea to the market, since this phase includes many areas where academia is not so strong (scale-up, packaging, sterilisation, stability / shelf-life, etc.).

Regards

Josef

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Hi all - interesting information from everyone. I like the question but the scenario is a little vague and therefore my answer is ‘it depends’. Sure it’s good to file for a patent but in my mind that means you have done enough research to have a reasonably mature idea about the thing, whatever it may be. What if you just need funding or some other type of support for your research? There are many ways to hit up industry for help. First, you could do some research on what industry the research would most readily apply to. Create a short list of the companies that have what you want or need and also those companies that you think may benefit from your research. These lists may overlap and they may not. Some may be large conglomerates and some may be small niche start-ups. Decide what your priorities are and then plan a multipronged approach. You can cold call the companies and find someone to talk to - sometimes hard to do but with each call and or question answered by the company representatives you will be able to focus your intent and help them narrow down the right person to talk to. You should also try to find any company representatives at these scientific meetings (I don’t know how you do that in a virtual conference but I’m sure it’s possible and maybe almost as effective) and meet them for an introduction - you should have an elevator pitch ready and polished to describe your research. Be prepared for questions. In these brief introductions you want to find out if your research ideas align with the company goals. Many times they will not, so be prepared to ask questions that help you understand the perspective from the company. This may either help you refine your research (tweaking the direction, etc.) or it narrows the list of companies you work on. I have heard that funding from industry is as competitive if not more so than government funding.
Now from the industry perspective - first, the research needs to be in the general strategic area of interest for the business; second, supplying some scrap material or other nominal supplies as a donation may work for some researchers; third, if the researcher proposes a funding request then the company is going to want to know more about the feasibility of the research, milestones and deliverables and will only plan on paying for deliverables; fourth, if the researcher can deliver results on time that are successfully integrated into the company there is a very good chance the company will want to continue to work and fund the researcher for their expertise and further research. Maybe that is enough for now - I wonder if there is a word count on this forum. And yes, I have worked for many years in industry in a research capacity facilitating external academic collaborations.

Thank you very much, Bob. Your post is really helpful and complete. Thank you for sharing your experience and comments!