Industrial Sponsorship of Research: Making and Cultivating Contacts
Greetings, members of the ECM community! We hope your spring semester is off to a great start. As you continue to build your research portfolio, we wanted to take a moment to provide an introduction to how funding from industry can be one potential tool in your funding “toolbox.”
As you consider pursuing funding from industry, it is important to recognize that industrial funding differs from other types of project funding in a variety of ways. In particular, understanding the following types of issues will help immensely as you pursue industry-funded projects:
- Publishing restrictions: Many industry sponsors request pre-publication review and/or a publication delay.
- “Hands on” project sponsors: Industry sponsors tend to work very closely with researchers – visiting labs, talking regularly, asking for more frequent deliverables and reports.
- Logistics: Industry funding often comes in smaller amounts, for shorter-duration projects, often with quick turn arounds needed from idea, to proposal, to funding.
- Confidentiality: In many cases, projects are subject to non-disclosure agreements. Some projects may restrict what types of personnel can participate.
Faculty from many disciplines across campus regularly work through these issues successfully with industry sponsors. However, it is important to seek clarity on any potential areas of concern prior to project implementation and to propose realistic projects where your team can meet deliverables. Industry funding can often lead to long-term partnerships between a sponsor and a faculty researcher; however, one “failed” project is likely to burn bridges with more than just one industry sponsor.
What is the best way to proceed with industry funding? Industry funding is usually driven by personal relationships. Some practical tips to build these relationships include:
- Seek out collaborators on campus who receive funding from a relevant industry. Perhaps start as co-PI on a collaborative project to enable you to develop a reputation for success and to develop personal contacts in the industry.
- If applicable, attend conferences that include industry representatives. Proactively seek out people to develop personal connections.
- Consider a sabbatical in industry if your interests align.
- Use every opportunity you have (e.g., Michigan Tech’s Career Fair, departmental or college/school advisory boards, alumni events) to develop relationships with Michigan Tech alumni and friends who can either work with you directly or make introductions to their industry colleagues.
- Train graduate students to conduct work relevant in industry; keep in contact with graduates from your group and leverage their growing networks.
Getting your first industry contract can be intimidating, and it can take some time. However, faculty across campus find these connections rewarding and – in many cases – a significant contribution to their funding portfolio.
If you are interested in learning more or pursuing industry funding for your projects, some additional resources can be found in the Michigan Tech Research Development toolkit. The “agencies” link (top right) has an “industry” tab with additional information and resources. Note that because these resources are limited to the Michigan Tech community you must be logged into your Michigan Tech Google account to access the site.
If we can be of assistance to you as you continue your career at Michigan Tech, please contact either of us.
Jim Desrochers, firstname.lastname@example.org Associate Director of Industry Relations
Peter Larsen, email@example.com Director of Research Development