Panel Discussion on " Improving Industry- Academic Research Center collaboration"
The Panel topic was formed by Professor Shahabi, Director of IMSC, who posed (1) the following questions for panel discussion.
I. What are the benefits an industry partner would like to get from a research center?
II. What are the benefits a research center would like to get from an industry partner?
III. What are the potential conflicts?
IV. What are the risks and threats in these partnerships?
What are the differences between
research in academia and industry, and
how they can complement each other?
VI. What are the successful collaboration models? Can they be readily copied?
Industry – Dan Fay (Microsoft, Director of External Research - Earth, Energy, and Environment)
Industry – Jose Rodriguez (IC Design Manager, Intel)
Academia (Industry before) – Ramesh Jain, Donald Bren Professor of Info & CS, UCI
Academia – John Sweet, USC Stevens Institute for Innovation
Panel Moderator – Kris V. Srikrishnan, IBM Emeritus
Panel Presentations, Discussion and Q&A.
The Panel started with brief presentations by the panelists followed by discussions and Q&A. The moderator introduced the topic (2), and touched on the fact that Academic Research Centers (ARC) are quite prevalent among leading US Universities with an emphasis for partnering with Industries and to work on Innovative solutions for business and government recognized needs.. The breadth of the ARCs can vary from a single topic of technology to a collection of somewhat related topics. The ARC industry relationship model is similar at a high level among different Universities (including IMSC).
Dan Fay (3) covered the different type of engagement models with academia that have been and are used at Microsoft and the pros and cons associated with them. He talked about how to create win-win situations with industry and how to avoid possible landmines. Dan suggested d the following as a way to grow and nurture collaboration projects: 1) Collaborations need to be win-win – both parties need to have a good understanding of each other's expectations. True collaborations need to have champions on both-sides, communicating and working jointly. 2) BlueSky research can be harder to collaborate on, more likely supported via government funding. Academia should be focused on research and not run operations centers or outsource work. 3) It's good to have IP agreements worked out up front with realistic terms – including things like Non-exclusive Royalty Free (NERF) licensing included.
Jose Rodriguez (4) covered points of contact for research institutions at Intel (Labs, NBI and Product Groups) and described as an example current engagement with Cyrus's team at USC for visual computing. He addressed questions posed by Prof. Shahabi and suggested that the present IP model will be difficult to sustain. There is a need for alternate engagement models and exchange vehicles between industry and academia, and academia need to take a lead position regarding future research vectors. ARC communities (cooperative ARC clusters) may want to join forces to strengthen this approach.
Prof Ramesh Jain ( 5) pointed out that the missions of academic research and industry are significantly different and building an academic research program that will be aligned with the missions of participating industry is not an easy task. To make the situation more challenging the reward system in academia discourages research culture that may meet industrial needs. The last two decades have seen interesting developments in computing and communication technology development. One could argue that during this period academic research has become a follower of industrial technology, yet some of the best universities could be considered source for some of the most exciting technology development. He concluded that Academic Research Centers and Industry could be ideal partners, but that needs significant cultural understanding.
John Sweet of the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation (6) highlighted the reason for coming together as creating solutions to tough problems that can make a difference for humankind within our lifetimes. From the industry side of the fence, sometimes it is helpful just to be reminded of the magnitude of research innovation that happens within the university system. Meanwhile, from within the university, one needs to recognize that big and small research centers in academia generate ideas (and intellectual property) that do have real value, with the power to change people's lives. Universities should always continue to pursue fundamental academic research; but in so doing, the culture should also permit that partnering with industry holds the promise of touching people's lives in immediate and tangible ways
Some points from Q&A
Industry decision on collaborating with a specific ARC is driven by many facts, alignment of technical interest, awareness of ARC projects, existing relationship with faculty and ability to define the project objectives clearly.
It is important for long term sustainability that Industry and Academia has mutual respect of each other and Industry proposals to Academia need to have a significant research query.
Students should focus on their passion for a particular research project and not overly concerned with quick results or by perceived ease or difficulty.
IP agreements can be problematic, but usually resolvable if both parties are committed to the project and recognize each other's expectations and the need for win-win outcomes.