Working With Industry
The content on this page offers an outline of how faculty can work to find an industry collaborator then define, budget and initiate a project; IREO staff can support faculty in all phases of this effort. Contact IREO to explore how we can help you find and initiate a project.
Finding a partner
Few companies post requests for proposals. Most public-private research collaborations derive from a faculty member’s professional network and their ability to adapt their lab’s capabilities to fit a unique aspect of a company’s needs. As a product of this reality, developing a diverse professional network is often a prerequisite for developing a partnership with a private company. Faculty need champions within the company and the route to this is to build, cultivate, and maintain your network. This takes time, effort and resources.
IREO supports programs and activities that can help. Through the I-Corps Program, you can access funds to travel to companies to explore how your work might fit their needs. If you are interested to invite a potential partner to campus, IREO can support travel to fill a departmental seminar slot. If you need help finding a contact, or support setting up meetings at a conference, contact us to explore how IREO can support your efforts.
Getting to the project
Once you have established contact and validated potential mutual value from an interaction, you will need to develop a specific project and work plan. In most cases, this is an iterative process that involves a number of conversations between you and your company champion. Make sure to ask a lot of questions as you begin to shape a project.
- How has the company worked with a university in the past?
- How do they select projects to fund?
- Is there a time of year that is best for submitting a proposal?
- What is a typical funding level?
- What is a preferred proposal format?
- What types of deliverables and timelines are needed?
All of this type of information will help you develop a specific proposal that is best situated for approval. Be open and adaptable. In these conversations, work to understand their budget, constraints and pressures. The work you propose will ultimately be subject to these realities.
The budget realities the company faces are also subject to the budget realities WSU faces. Public sector research is a heavily subsidized activity that requires cost recoveries over and above the specific costs of the work. Before you propose deliverables within a certain budget constraint, consult your local fiscal administrator.
Submitting a proposal
Similar to submitting grants, when you are ready to formally submit a proposal to a private partner you will work through the Office of Research Support Operations (ORSO). You will need to go through the regular eRex process working with your local fiscal administrator. This will trigger a contract negotiation between the company and WSU. ORSO leads this negotiation, but IREO staff can support this effort by helping inform ORSO about the nature of the project and the associated interests of both the company and the faculty member.
Industry sponsors are often unfamiliar with the budget format used by universities. The University-Industry Demonstration Project recommends reformatting the university budget prior to submission to the industry sponsor. The budget should be presented externally as the full cost for the work. You should work with your local fiscal administrator to develop this budget. Not including necessary costs will inhibit your ability to execute on the proposed work and negatively impact the emerging collaboration.