Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

The Strategic Role of University-Industry Liaison Offices

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

The Strategic Role of University-Industry Liaison Offices

Article excerpt


Changing environmental demands and the increasing importance of science and technology have added a new dimension to the university's role in society: economic development through technological innovation and transfer. In recent years, a new administrative entity - the university-industry liaison office - has emerged as an important partner in this process. The university-industry liaison office has three main tasks: disseminating information about the university's research potential, developing partnerships among the university, business and industry, promoting "entrepreneurship" within the academic community.

This triple role allows the university-industry liaison office to have a major impact on the image and the reputation of the university. As university service to the community increases over the next decade, the importance of the university-industry liaison office also will grow. This article describes how a university-industry liaison office can enhance the contribution a modern university makes to the economy of the region, the nation and the world.

Fifty years ago, the university's role was restricted to research and training young people for a place in society. Nowadays, industry has a growing need for the specialized know-how, information and advice available from universities. As a result, universities are playing an active role in the process of technological innovation by licensing inventions and discoveries to industry. Spin-off companies, science parks and incubators are examples of the results of university-industry collaboration (Bok, 1982; Bullock, 1983; Stankiewicz, 1986; Wade, 1986).

Governments have encouraged such arrangements by including service to society and to the industrial world, along with the traditional objectives of education and research, as part of the mission of the university. In different countries, the law has been adapted in recent years to include this objective and to "officialize" the economic role of the university for the region and for society.

In return, industry has contributed to the research enterprise by helping to finance university research programs. Increased costs for scientific equipment and insufficient governmental funding have obliged universities to look to a variety of sources - including industry - for a new means of financing research.

The combination of university knowledge and industrial financial support has lead to innovation and the creation of new businesses, jobs and wealth. However, these outcomes are not always easy to obtain. Successful cooperation between industry and the university requires a special kind of synergy. To achieve a successful cooperation agreement, both parties need to be aware of each other's interests and objectives as well as each other's complementary strengths.

The following article describes how industry can benefit from various university services and analyzes some important characteristics of the innovation process. The importance of intermediary organizations and networks in the technology transfer process are described. External and internal marketing of R&D services, including the costs and potential value of the innovation process and the risks involved, also will be discussed in relationship to the strategic role of the university-industry liaison office.

Overview of University-- Industry Interaction

In a knowledge-based society, access to information is critical. It is one of the most important services a university can provide to business and industry. University personnel can provide expert advice, help in conducting targeted experiments and laboratory work, and assistance in analyzing data. Institutions of higher education also can provide continuing education for industry personnel. In recent years, institutions of higher education have begun to directly contribute to the economy of the region surrounding the university through the process of technology transfer. …

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