Building successful partnerships between academia and industry


By Marilynn Larkin (OB Senior Advisory Board)

Marilynn Larkin.jpg


In a recent presentation held at the German Center for Research and Innovation in New York City, experts from academia provided insights into their institutions’ efforts to ensure that promising research has at least some chance of being “translated” into useful products, and an industry expert discussed some of the hurdles and solutions. 

Dr. Jörn Erselius, Managing Director at Max Planck Innovation (MI) in Munich, Germany, gave an overview of the organization’s success in bringing research to market. MI undertook several initiatives to bring promising projects to the point that they could be considered for collaborations and also launched a Life Science Inkubator, specifically to catalyze startups. Selected team members receive education on business and entrepreneurship, as well as assistance in putting together a business plan and fundraising.

Dr. Teri Willey, VP of Business Development & Technology Transfer at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York, said the small life sciences organization is an incubator for more than 20 biotechnology spinoffs and has 605 active patent cases pending for 280 technologies and 872 technology transfer agreements of various sorts (as of April 2014). CSHL  takes a stepwise approach to collaboration, starting with “great science and great scientists” and then helping scientists select the right partner, execute a contract and follow through post deal.

Dr. Barbara Dalton, Director at Pfizer Ventures Investments Team in New York City, praised the strategies and successes of both MI and CSHL, but emphasized that many more such efforts by academia are needed to bring basic research projects to the point where they are actually fundable businesses. “Big wins…are extremely rare,” she said. “Institutions probably have to spin out 100 companies to get one or two that might result in a successful partnership and product, and so for the most part, these ventures are really, really risky.” 

How can academic institutions leverage their assets to secure funding in a tight economy and also deliver ROI? “For a venture capitalist, it all comes down to the people — that’s really what we invest in,” Dr. Dalton said. 

Read the entire article, which includes a section on “Traits a scientist needs to get funding,” here: