University Research Funding and the Role of the Industry Relations Officer
Professor of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Practice, MIEEE
Director of Electrical and Computer Engineering Capstone Program
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas
University research funding and the role of the industry relations officer
No one would question the tremendous value that University Industry Relations officers provide, but one might wonder what the future of research funding looks like and how can these individuals help make the transition smoother.
Some key factors influencing the future include: the rates of people graduating with higher end degrees, government research funding over time, and the cost of doing research.
The number of post-secondary education degrees offered by institutions is continuing an upward trend (figure#1), while the number of tenured professors has stayed constant (Figure#2). The result (given a continued increase in student enrollment) is a rise in non-tenured faculty. This does not diminish the need for funds to do research, in fact, the number of qualified researchers looking for funds, is on the rise.
Unfortunately, the amount of government funding has been decreasing over time (see figure#3). Coupled with the previous observation of increased applicants for funds, the availability of research grants, especially for the less seasoned individuals, is becoming scarcer. Additionally, the cost of doing research (whether it is equipment or salaries for graduate students) has increased, exacerbating the problem.
The good news is that industry has shown an interest in stepping in to fill the void. This trend is currently led by pharmaceuticals, according to NSF’s annual Business Research and Development and Innovation Survey (BRDIS).
University Industry Relations officers can make a difference by helping to accelerate the increase in industry-funded research, thus enabling researchers to continue doing critically needed research. Their close connections with University faculty allows them to understand how research can benefit industrial partners and supports their mission of developing long-term collaborations that will benefit both parties.