Research Liasion: Corporate – University Research Alliances

By Michael D. Moberly

A ‘research liaison’ should contribute to corporate – university (sponsored) research projects by: sustaining (protecting and preserving) unencumbered control, use, ownership and monitoring the value of both parties’ investments, i.e., the projected stream of intangible assets, IP, competitive advantages, and (proprietary) know how evolving from the research.

Unfortunately, there’s a fairly long trail of melodramatic intrusions in academic research – scientific processes with an equally long trail of scientists and universities interpreting those initiatives as unwarranted and disrespectful attempts at oversight and management of university-based research.  When handled poorly or heavy-handedly such initiatives:

  • routinely collide with the time honored principles of open scientific communication and academic freedom, and
  • are quick to spark emotional, polarizing, and project stifling debates in academic units and research labs, especially those unaccustomed to the necessity and realities of properly safeguarding information (research work products).

An unfortunate, but very true reality is however those principles (academic freedom, open scientific communication) are routinely being exploited, outpaced, circumvented, and undermined today by:

  • very determined and extraordinarily sophisticated and predatorial data mining and global business-competitor intelligence operations, and
  • the inevitable challenges posed by ’trusted insiders’.

When either taint a research process, an unwelcomed outcome for both the university and corporate sponsor is that time, resources, and investment in research and its valuable products’, in the form of intangible assets, knowhow and competitive advantages, are compromised, relinquished, or lost.  These, in turn, will usually prompt an array of costly, time consuming, and embarrassing challenges and disputes, any one of which can adversely affect:

  • the corporate sponsor in terms of not receiving the projected benefits and competitive advantages initially conceived when the research partnership was formed, and certainly
  • the universities’ image, reputation, and goodwill as a prospective ’research partner’.

Necessarily then, the role-responsibility for a ‘research liaison’ (among other things) is to:

  • serve as an enabler and facilitator to research collaborations, partnerships, and processes
  • provide momentum to the administrative processes associated with executing university-corporate research partnerships, and
  • build and strengthen bridges between researchers, scientists and corporate research sponsors through respectful and knowledgeable dialogue to elevate receptivity of research units’ culture to safeguarding and preserving the value of intangible-information based assets and intellectual capital in ways that simultaneously respect academic research traditions and the principles of the Bayh-Dole Act.

Today, in the nanosecond world of at will global communication and collaboration, decisions about when, where, and the circumstances in which research work products are disseminated have become more blurred and certainly, more risky!

[This article originally appeared on the Business IP and Intangible Asset Blog]

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