mcsweeny

Published on September 24, 1997

GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS FOR UNIVERSITY-INDUSTRY RELATIONSHIPS

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Business and industry are more dependent on university research now than they have ever been in the past, according to an Ohio State University research administrator.

But universities and industry are going to have to change their current views on partnering if both institutions are to profit in the future.

Paul McSweeny, director of industrial outreach at Ohio State, made his statements this month at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Las Vegas. McSweeny said that there’s both good and bad news regarding university-industry relationships.

“The good news is that some of the traditional difficulties that have slowed these partnerships have been overcome. The bad news is that the drop in governmental support for research may affect what these partnerships can produce,” he said.

McSweeny believes that the industry and university communities need to join forces to call for more governmental support for academic research.

“There has to be more of a coalition behind the effort to recognize the role government has traditionally been playing in supporting research and technology.”

He said that industrial progress is more dependent now on academic research than it has ever been in the past because of wholescale industry downsizing.

In the post-World War II era, there was ample governmental support for university research.

“Now, it’s not as easy. It’s much more complex and requires more coordination and appreciation of the need for overlap between universities and industry,” he said, “to guide both parties to areas of mutual interest.”

McSweeny said that two type of university projects are good examples of uniting academic and industrial research -- research parks and interdisciplinary research centers. The challenge, he said, will be to let these university efforts function in a new way that augments traditional research support.

Historically, outside sponsors such as governmental agencies or business and industries will support contracts and grants for a researcher to investigate specific research questions. McSweeny said that other non-traditional arrangements should be explored in an effort to strengthen academic research. Doing that will require changes both inside and outside the universities.

“We need a better understanding by industry of the potential that university research presents for them,” he said. “The tough message will be to convince industry that we’ve improved the way we deal with these partnerships, that we’ve made them easier for both sides.

“On the inside, however, the reward systems within the academic research community need to start valuing the contributions that faculty involved in industrial research and development make to the university.”

As far as industry is concerned, he suggested that more interaction in the form of participation on boards of advisors, scientist exchange programs and utilizing academics on research and development planning councils would likely pay dividends.

McSweeny said that Ohio State is taking a lead among public research universities in reorganizing its priorities to better relate to the needs of business and industry.

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Contact: Paul McSweeny, (614) 292-8258; McSweeny.2@osu.edu Written by Earle Holland, (614) 292-8384; Holland.8@osu.edu


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