Subcommittee Discusses Partnerships between Businesses and Research Universities
(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Research and Science Education held a hearing entitled, “The Relationship Between Business and Research Universities: Collaborations Fueling American Innovation and Job Creation, to examine partnerships and collaborations between industry and research universities. Testifying before the Subcommittee were representatives from Accenture, Lockheed Martin, Deere and Company, The Dow Chemical Company, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
This hearing is a follow-up to a hearing held by the Subcommittee on June 27, 2012 in which several university leaders were asked to testify on a recent National Research Council (NRC) report that examines the health and competitiveness of our nation’s research universities, Research Universities and the Future of America. Several of the recommendations included in the report describe a role for the business community and one recommendation in particular calls for strengthening the business role in the research partnership.
Ranking Member Dan Lipinski (D-IL) said in his opening statement, “Norm Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, likes to describe scientific research as the “engine of a thought-based economy.” To paraphrase him further, if your plane is too heavy to fly, you don’t toss out the engine. I couldn’t agree more, which is why even in these tight budget times I continue to believe that we must sustain our investments in scientific research, which means sustaining our investments in our world-class research universities. But it takes more than just the engine to fly a plane, it takes a system of components working together. In this case, the path from the lab bench to innovation and job creation depends on a complicated network of private companies, scientists, universities, venture capitalists, startups, and entrepreneurs.”
Democratic Members lauded the partnership between industry and research universities. They also emphasized the importance of the federal government in facilitating and contributing to these partnerships.
“The federal government can use many mechanisms to promote collaboration between the business and university communities. These include tax incentives such as the R&D tax credit, direct support for university-based research centers that require or encourage industry partners, or convening university and industry stakeholders around areas of shared interest. These also include programs such as NSF’s Innovation Corps, an education program which helps federally funded research innovations transition from the university lab into a profitable company,” said Mr. Lipinski. “While limited partnerships around easily definable milestones are valuable and should continue, our ultimate goal is to promote the creation of innovation ecosystems within which universities, businesses, research institutes, and other stakeholders build and sustain long-term and mutually beneficial collaborations.”
Witnesses discussed how industry has largely dismantled the large corporate research labs, but has yet to fully utilize research universities to meet its needs. They echoed the Members in emphasizing the important role the federal government plays in bringing industry and universities together. Dr. Louis Graziano, the Director of University R&D Strategy for Sustainable Technologies and Innovation Sourcing at The Dow Chemical Company, gave the example of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), a private-public partnership that seeks to revitalize and transform American manufacturing by enabling innovation, securing the talent pipeline, and improving the business climate for U.S. industry. More than one witness emphasized that small and medium sized businesses in particular rely on the convening power of the federal government to connect them with potential university partners.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) discussed with witnesses the recommendation in the NRC report that all stakeholders, including industry, make increasing the participation of Americans in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education a top priority.