When you hear the word ‘matchmaking’, you probably think of the world of dating and apps arranging new connections based on personalities, interests, and preferences. That principle also extends to building partnerships between academia and industry. In this context, it’s taking research with the potential for real-world impact and matching it with industry partners. Consequently accelerating its development into a new product, service, technology or medicine.

Academic researchers all over the world are creating solutions to combat the greatest challenges we face today. From vaccinations to sustainable materials, and from renewable energy to cancer treatments and beyond, scientists are working on innovations to improve our everyday lives and secure a sustainable future. But these innovations and breakthroughs are futile without collaboration. Partnerships between academia and industry are vital to get research beyond the limits of a campus and into your living room.

Why are academia-industry partnerships so important?

Partnerships between academia and industry are not a new thing. Although their profile has grown in recent years, most notably in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, university-industry relationships have existed for the better part of a century. Take the discovery of penicillin – a chance event in a London lab in 1928 that began the course of the world’s first mass-produced drug. This paved the way for novel inventions and discoveries that have changed the world we know today. Such inventions include CRISPR-Cas-9, monoclonal antibodies, graphene, and arguably the biggest thing that keeps the world connected – the internet!

The pandemic has shown just how powerful research-industry collaboration is. The rapid development and deployment of life-saving vaccines were only made possible through the collaboration of academic researchers and biopharma companies. Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and BioNTech have since become household names. By the end of 2020 (less than a year after being declared a pandemic), more than 200 vaccine candidates were in development to protect against COVID-19. Approximately 50 of these were in Phase III clinical trials.

In light of the phenomenal progress made by scientific communities, we can’t deny the impact of knowledge exchange and collaboration between academia and industry.

For the past few decades, companies have increasingly turned to universities for early-stage research. Consequently reducing their spending whilst utilising the best scientific minds in the game. And academic researchers have responded to this call, with government funding for research becoming more competitive and applications more time-consuming.

These collaborations, not only, aid in the deployment of innovative solutions, but also enable researchers to expand their career paths and R&D firms to expand their personnel. Often these partnerships with industry allow the exploration of career moves between academic and industry roles, as companies are motivated to access highly-skilled labour. This is usually in the form of notable scientists and qualified engineers.

A partnership between an academi lab and a company is particularly advantageous in bridging the cultural divide. Both parties have unique insights and skill sets – often researchers are driven by science, while industry is driven by the market. Together they provide a cohesive merger of two pursuits with overlapping aims. Additionally, it has been found that early engagement of industry stakeholders improves the efficiency and impact of an academic project, due to advanced knowledge of risk management and effective forecasting. So, it really does seem like academia-industry collaboration is a win-win!

But with millions of academic researchers worldwide, how do you find the ideal partner?

One of the biggest obstacles is the limited time and resources academics and industry professionals have to connect with one another. Without university-industry matchmaking, finding and building connections requires massive amounts of engagement from both parties.

Researchers are often occupied by their work, having little time to seek opportunities beyond the lab or to find the ideal industry partner to bring their research to market. Universities and research institutions have recognised both the need to engage industry with promising research and also the strain that this can add to the researcher. Many academic institutes have designated technology transfer offices (TTOs) to do this work.

So this is a job for TTOs? Yes, and no. At the heart of a tech transfer office is this idea of academia-industry collaboration. However, a TTO is often only a small team responsible for an entire university’s research outputst! And so, these teams can be stretched. They not only must identify the most promising research at their institute for industry engagement, but then must find the relevant companies to promote to, and also the specific contacts within these companies. This challenge isn’t all that surprising given the size, complexity, and global distribution of R&D-based companies.

Similarly, R&D teams in industry face their own challenges. They’re striving to meet tight targets, deliver innovation, and create new products of value, all while maintaining competitiveness in the market. The R&D community must also adapt to new challenges and concerns associated with world events, such as the likes of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, a lot of teams in these R&D-driven companies are focused on maintaining or improving their current and previous projects.

Beyond a lack of time and resources, there is the challenge of navigating the likes of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and intellectual property (IP). Both structures are in place to protect the technology and personnel behind it. Yet, they can make it difficult to start a conversation between two parties. And so, we need a way to facilitate a connection easily, without being faced with obstacles at every turn.

That’s where university-industry matchmaking comes in!

Matchmaking uses dozens of factors to form effective relationships, but this isn’t restricted to individuals and the world of dating. And why should it be? It’s a simple principle, like fitting two jigsaw pieces together. But that doesn’t mean it’s a simple process.

Inpart is dedicated to make finding the perfect partner easier for both academic institutes and companies. We conduct university-industry matchmaking through algorithms that match academic research with the most relevant companies on the platform based on the alignment of research interests and priorities. University-industry matchmaking takes lots of factors into account from parties on both sides. As well as technical requirements, these factors include the likes oftechnology readiness level (TRL), applications, IP, and types of opportunity sought, to facilitate a well-matched connections.

Finding the ideal research partnership shouldn’t be more difficult than the innovation itself. Our matchmaking platform, Connect, is curated and managed by in-house STEM experts to simplify the introduction between teams in academia and industry. With Connect, universities and research institutes showcase their technologies to a worldwide community of decision-makers in R&D companies. They do this with the support of a dedicated account manager and access to performance analytics and metrics.

R&D teams in companies create a free profile, specifying their interests and what they are seeking, and our matchmaking tech provides matches from subscribed institutes for review. And if all parties are interested, then we start the conversation in a trusted, secure, and confidential manner. All without success fees or downstream costs.

Essentially, we make the hard part easy!

Once you sign up to Inpart, you can browse through all the opportunities on the platform, from newest innovations to specific technologies using the search and filter tools. You can also set up alerts for saved searches to ensure you’re always in the loop when it comes to areas of interest. Each technology has tailored keywords attached that have been determined through natural language processing. This is supplemented with manual input by the STEM experts in the team, which allows for the appropriate matching of research interests. Additionally, you can provide feedback on any technology opportunity to aid institutes with market fit and industry requirements.

On the other side, each institute on the platform has its own dashboard to manage and update listings. This includes access to real-time analytics and engagement metrics, as well as qualitative feedback from industry to help inform decision-making and funding applications.

If you still don’t believe that we are the heart of university-industry matchmaking, let the numbers speak for themselves. Inpart’s network extends to more than 6,000 companies worldwide (including the top 25 R&D-spending firms globally), as well as having 250+ subscribed institutes and universities subscribed (including ETH Zurich, Cambridge, Imperial, UCLA, CERN, the Max Planck Institutes, and many smaller specialist institutes and national labs) . Since the launch of our university-industry matchmaking platform in 2014, we’ve initiated over 12,000 new conversations in academia and industry, with 75% of these being international connections.

So, come and sign up to Inpart to get a taste of university-industry matchmaking. Whether you’re in academia or industry, we’re all striving for the same ultimate goal – to give research the greatest impact possible!