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How Academia-Industry Collaboration Has Benefited Society

Academic and Industry collaborations are not a  new concept that was created in the 21st century. The concept dates back to the 1970s, and “since 1973, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers Program (IUCRC) has facilitated partnerships between scientific researchers from both industry and academia to drive innovation.” 1 Below, Bioinsider will describe the power of academia-industry collaborations.

Benefit 1: Economic Impact

One of the most significant benefits of academic-industry collaboration is the economic impact that academic licensing has had and the number of jobs that it has created. A report on the Economic Contribution of University/Nonprofit Inventions in the United States between 1996-2015  estimated that ” the total contribution of…academic licensors to industry gross output ranges from $320 billion to $1.33 trillion, in 2009 U.S. dollars; and contributions to gross domestic product (GDP) range from $148 billion to $591 billion, in 2009 U.S. dollars.”  It is estimated that university hospitals and research institutes’ licensed-product sales in the U.S. supported employment ranging from 1.268 million to over 4.272 million over a 20-year period. These positive revenues can be reinvested into research to ensure a sustainable research cycle for years to come.

Benefit 2: More Opportunities for Universities

When working with industries, universities benefit through additional research funding mechanisms and receiving industry feedback on the potential for created technology to go from conception to market.1 “By striking up corporate partnerships, universities have more resources to undertake research, and they’re able to diversify their research areas.” 1  An additional reason for universities to work with industry is the ability for students to gain industrial experience and potential employment in these universities’ partner companies.  These companies are “vying for graduates who have the pulse on emerging markets. And they’ve mentored students, who are acquiring expertise long before they’re employees.” 1  By helping students receive job offers, the universities” can point to the strength of their faculty and programs. Substantial job placement numbers are enticing to prospective students—and assures other possible corporate partners that their talent pool is deep.” 1  

Benefit 3: Head- Start and Safety Net for Industry

When industries work with universities, they are able to access a network of faculty, key opinion leaders, and leaders in the field, as well as collaborate with companies that are engaged in similar research.1 Universities are also places where the next big idea usually originates. Companies that align themselves with universities early in the process will gain a competitive advantage over their competitors.1 Additionally, companies associated with universities will be able to “de-risk” their research and avoid research costs, saving the companies money as they funnel dollars to universities.1 IUCRC, for instance, has calculated that every dollar invested in partnership is leveraged 40 times, meaning that if a company contributes $50,000 to a partnership, they will receive $2 million additional dollars in research funding. Using this risk-averse procedure, companies can feel more confident in conducting research and knowing that their investment will pay off in the long run. In other words, companies can completely immerse themselves in a specific field of study without having to pitch to potential venture capitalists about the value of their endeavor.  As a result, it is a win-win situation for both the industry and academia.

 Success Stories

There have been multiple success stories in the life sciences sector of academia-industry collaborations. These success stories have shown that academia-industry collaborations are a concept to be taken seriously and beneficial to society. Below are a few examples of what collaboration between academia and industry can achieve.

Pfizer and University of California San Francisco

In 2010, Pfizer and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) created a partnership called the Center for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI) to accelerate the “translation of biomedical research into new medications and therapies for patients.” 3 Pfizer pledged up to $ 85 million in research support and milestone payments for breakthrough medicines developed for illnesses with high unmet needs.The partnership allows for support of up to 10 projects at a time. The partnerships “established an open network of researchers to foster collaboration and exchange between UCSF and Pfizer scientists.”  It was so successful in its first several years that it expanded the partnership to include the development of small-molecule drug candidates such as kinase inhibitors for the treatment of pediatric malignant brain tumors.3 The joint effort has also paved the way to an immunomodulatory treatment option for type 1 diabetes involving CTI, a UCSF scientist, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.3

GSK and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

In 2015, a partnership between GSK(GlaxoSmithKline) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was formed to find a cure for HIV/AIDS.  In the agreement, GSK expressed its intent to contribute its expertise and knowledge in pharmaceutical discovery, development, and manufacturing, while UNC-Chapel Hill would contribute its research and translational medicine capabilities, including access to patients and funding. As part of the HIV Cure Center project, UNC would provide laboratory space on its campus, and GSK would relocate its researchers to Chapel Hill to work with UNC researchers. To manage the business side of the venture, including intellectual property, commercialization, manufacturing, and corporate governance, the university and company formed a joint venture, Qura Therapeutics, Inc. Through Qura Therapeutics, GSK promised to invest $4 million per year for five years to fund the initial HIV Cure center research plan.” 3

Novartis and University of Pennsylvania

In 2012, Novartis and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) reached a global research and licensing agreement to study cellular immunotherapies such as chimeric antigen receptors ( CARs). This agreement has paved the way for studies that have the potential to expand the use of CAR therapies for additional cancers. In 2016, the Novartis-Penn Center for Advanced Cellular Therapies (CACT) was opened on the Penn campus in Philadelphia. In partnership with Penn, Novartis, and the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, is dedicated to discovering, developing, and manufacturing adoptive T cell immunotherapies. Through this agreement, Novartis receives an exclusive worldwide license to the technologies used in an ongoing clinical trial for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and any future CAR-based therapies developed through the collaboration. Additionally, Penn will receive milestone and royalty payments under the agreement.


To sum up, collaborations between academia-industry are possible. By establishing agreements, each party brings its strengths to the table, thereby allowing more research to be conducted with minimal risk.  Collaboration between academia and industry is bound to increase as “the federal government has a central role in funding basic research and aligning it with the public need, while universities and private industry share primary responsibility for delivering on the federal investment”4.  They are two halves of a whole, and one without the other will not attain their research goals.

About the author:

Nicole Ludwiak is enthusiastic about emerging cancer therapeutics and the potential of technology to advance medical research. 



  1. Sjostedt, M. (2021, June 17). industry and university collaboration: how partnership drives innovation. VentureWell.
  2. The Economic Contribution of University/Nonprofit Inventions in the United States: 1996–2015. (2017). Biotechnology Innovation Organization.
  3. Biotechnology-Academic Sponsored Research Engagement Opportunities: Eight Guiding Principles and Best Practices. (2017). Biotechnology Innovation Organization. 
  4. Industry, Academia, and Government Collaboration: A Game Changer for. (2013, May 20). U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
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