A model: Collaborative university-industry relationships

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Jill Penridge
The University of Queensland

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As the availability of 'traditional' competitive grant research funding continues to become more restricted, continued growth of funding from industry and philanthropy-based funding sources is key to Australian universities’ survival. Australian industry partners now require the real possibility of tangible financial return from research and a flexible research environment that enables mutual benefit.

For the Australian university sector to become a viable partner to industry, it must identify and learn from historical research projects that have not met these evolving expectations. Appreciating the mechanisms by which industry draws value, including IP and analogous rights, and identification of relationship-based frameworks that support innovation are fundamental to understanding this evolution.

This paper considers the case of a decades-long industry funded research program that has spanned these shifts in perception of value. Incremental, simultaneous changes have transformed the nature of the relationships between the university and industry sponsor and exposed weaknesses. Using stakeholder interviews and an examination of the contractual arrangements, the relevant IP has been mapped to demonstrate its programmatic development. Key events in the relationship that indicate how weaknesses have been exacerbated by the contractual approach taken to the collaboration have then been identified.

This case study demonstrates how knowledge of the antecedents and dynamics of trust can be used to develop satisfaction in university-industry relationships by pre-emptively identifying events that might otherwise lead to a breakdown. It also demonstrates the benefits of instigating management strategies for maintaining a productive collaboration. A model is proposed to demonstrate the temporal aspects of the collaboration with feedback loops revealing the dynamic and non-linear nature of the relationships. Service recovery steps that can be taken to recalibrate damaged relationships are also suggested.