Working in both academic and industry sectors over the years I have come to hear some common themes shared between the perceptions that academics and industry colleagues have of each other. While industry and academia do have differences, in many instances they are subtle rather than dichotomous.
For example, a common industrialist’s perception of academia is that they have freedom to explore any avenue of research they choose and focus in on a single topic for their entire career. They are also perceived as having a wide and expansive network of peers that wish to collaborate on a whim, and that they disseminate their research to the community through scientific journals that, often are read only by their peers.
Conversely, a common academic perception of industrialists is that they have unlimited resources to develop intellectual property, are purely focused on an ‘end product’ and often forego basic science for profit. In reality, I would consider this opposing view of industry and academia a misconception, in reality the two sectors are not only similar but synergistic.
In today’s society, industry professionals and academics often face the same challenges. Both academia and industry have to align with numerous stakeholders. For industry this is likely to be based on the company’s strategy and market analysis. For academia, these market forces will be driven by government initiatives, current trends in research funding and institutional strategy. However, for both industry and academics, the ultimate stakeholders are the general public and quality healthcare.
Industry and academia also have similar financial constraints; project funding in industry is fixed and year-on-year funding is scrutinised. Furthermore, new programs require extensive business cases and are often not funded. Similarly, academic funding requires lengthy grant proposals with similar peer scrutiny and a high degree of uncertainty regarding success.
The misconception of industry being ‘product driven’ and academia ‘research driven’ is also not entirely true. I have worked with many national and international industry partners over the years that have a passion for conducting basic science that ultimately may not lead to a product, but simply advances the knowledge within the field. Similarly, I have worked with academics who have a passion for taking basic discoveries and seeing them translated into products, services or businesses (myself being one of those).
With so many partnership opportunities open to the industry sector, our commercialisation team, within the Faculty of Medicine and Health, are here to help you identify the perfect opportunity and collaborative team to translate your discovery into a commercial success.
With this commonality, it is surprising that we do not find all our academics and industrial colleagues working together more often. After all, academia has lots to offer industry and visa-versa.
Universities have know-how and skill sets that are often sought by the industry sector. We are considered to be at the cutting-edge of our research fields’ and have facilities and expertise that are outside the scope of routine industry operations.
Conversely, industry has the ability to offer commercial insight into innovation occurring within the university and can rapidly translate innovation into products and services.
With such similarity and synergy, it is surprising not to see more industry/academic collaboration across the healthcare sector. I think, in part, this is most likely due to a lack of awareness by both parties of the skills and opportunities that already exists for collaboration.
The Commonwealth and State Government financially support numerous schemes that promote industry and academic collaboration. These range from seed-funding schemes (such as TechVouchers) through to innovation and translation grants (such as ARC Linkage and NHMRC Development Grants) through to larger partnership schemes (such as Cooperative Research Centre Projects and national training and innovation centres (Industrial Transformation Research Hubs and Training Centres).
With grants ranging from thousands of dollars to millions, these structured partnership opportunities are open to companies at all stages of development, and in most cases, offer multiple cash return on investments as well as being open for R&D tax credit.
The Faculty of Medicine and Health will be running a series of workshops designed to bring together industry professionals and academics in thematic interest areas to openly discuss their expertise and needs. Please register for our industry newsletter to ensure you are notified of these events when they become available.
If you would like to know about potential industry partnering grants that are open to you or your company, please contact our Faculty Enterprise Strategy team on firstname.lastname@example.org.
This opinion piece was written by Professor Paul Young. He is the inaugural Chair of Commercialisation at the Faculty of Medicine and Health. Paul has over 20 years experience working in the pharmaceutical and academic sectors.
Over the years, Paul has held numerous industry collaborative grants with both SMEs and large pharmaceutical companies both nationally and overseas.
He has established numerous start-up companies including a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Sydney and is an advocate for building a healthy pharmaceutical and medical technolgoy sector in Australia through education and partnership.