Academic-Corporate Relations at a Research University: Options for Engagement Practices and Organization
Universities engage with corporations to pursue their missions in research, teaching, and public service. In recent years, corporations have evolved their expectations for university relations from primarily philanthropic in nature to seeking engagements with academic institutions will enhance shareholder value by contributing to business goals. The question addressed by this project was whether there are best practices in university-corporate relations that could be applied to the circumstances of New York University, a major private research university. The topic was chosen because universities have chosen a number of different models for organizing and resourcing their corporate engagement offices, and administrators at New York University were interested in understanding the choices made by peer institutions. The research method used in this project was to interview corporate relations professionals at a variety of research universities in the United States, compare their organizations and strategies for corporate engagement with that of New York University, in the context of best practices recommended by organizations devoted to university-industry relations. The project found that New York University’s corporate relations organization and strategy differs from industry best practices in a number of ways. Variances include the lack of a centralized database of engagement activities, the absence of an office dedicated to coordinating corporate engagements across a large and relatively decentralized university, and an approach to partnerships that is sometimes short-term and transactional rather than long-term and strategic. The results of the project suggested a number of specific opportunities for New York University to consider that could better align their corporate engagement enterprise with those of other research universities. By adopting successful practices used by other institutions, New York University can expect to see improvements in a number of corporate engagement metrics ranging from the number and size of research collaborations to philanthropic gifts, alumni recruitment, student internships and scholarships, and faculty consulting and sabbatical opportunities.