How to Improve Academy-Industry Knowledge Exchange

We need to close the knowledge transfer gap between industry and academia. Happily, many universities are starting to change their cultures, policies, and procedures to make it happen.

While some presidential candidates wants to declare war on diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease as a way to address potential Medicare funding shortfalls, they are not taking into consideration that we have tried that before with the war on cancer, that basic scientific discoveries frequently are not correlated with advances in technology (in fact, it might be the other way around) or innovation, and that the way basic research universities commercialize technologies is broken.

Sickcare USA is realizing that it can't be fixed from inside. But, like a shy teenager looking for a prom date, it doesn't know where to go or ask for a date from industry. We need to close the knowledge transfer gap and many universities are starting to change their cultures, policies, and procedures to make it happen.

1. Advancement and fundraising. Donors are now becoming philanthropreneurial investors and are demanding immediate accountability and participation in funding clearly defined goals.

2. Academic-industry collaborative research and development. Biopharma companies are partnering with major research universities like Harvard and Stanford to get targeted impact on a given disease or population. That’s the philosophy embodied in the name the Bridge, one of three buildings slated to open in 2017 during the first phase of construction of Cornell Tech’s new campus on Roosevelt Island. The graduate school is not shy about its desire to knock down traditional barriers between academia and industry collaboration.

3. Graduate student education. Students are creating Career Clubs and hosting biotechnology symposia to advance interaction and collaboration.

4. Bioentrepreneurship education. Courses and certificate and degree programs are emerging around the world in an effort to create bioentrepreneurship as a recognized academic domain.

5. Government funding. The National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and other government agencies are funding education, development, and commercialization grants.

6. Crowdfunding. Researchers are taking advantage of new equity crowd funding platforms to fund their research to supplement other more traditional sources.

7. Community based initiatives. Citizen scientists and entrepreneurs are participating in online human subjects research.

8. Decentralized clinical trials. Independent practitioners are taking advantage of turnkey research networks to enroll more patients.

9. Expanding networks. Scientists, doctors, and engineers are expanding their direct and online networks with industry partners and using virtual, inexpensive collaboration tools.

10. The scholarship of innovation. Universities are granting promotion and tenure credit to faculty focusing on the scholarship of innovation.

11. University technology transfer offices are reinventing themselves offering education, resources, networks, and experiential learning to innovation fellows

12. Internal seed stage grants and proof of concept funds, sometimes coming from hospital or university presidential coffers, help faculty get their ideas to patients faster.

13. Regional ecosystems, like those in digital health, are expanding to integrate basic computer science and engineering research, development and commercialization with end user partners to overcome the digital health gaposis.

The university based innovation pipeline is broken. Throwing more money at funding agencies, more government based rules and an intransigent academic culture are preventing, not accelerating, getting new ideas to market and creating competition for the medtech and biopharma dollars.

If you work at a state-run medical school, you are working for three of the most sclerotic industries—the US government, higher ed, and medicine. It will take more than just a plaque-busting catheter to relieve the obstruction and restore blood flow to downstream extremities badly in need of nourishment. Like every industry, we need help from outside and we need it quickly.