The Grainger Institute for Engineering in the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering has begun to implement a new framework for public-private partnerships, making it easier for faculty members and industry to engage with each other.
“We’ve established a master agreement plan that will help define the roles and responsibilities for companies and the university as it relates to collaborative research,” says institute Director Dan Thoma. “We want faculty to be able to go into the process knowing how to protect their intellectual property and still get the companies what they need.”
The goal, says Thoma, is to increase university interactions with industry and reduce the time it takes to establish collaborative research agreements. Grainger Institute for Engineering staff undertook this effort in partnership with the College of Engineering, the UW-Madison Office of Industrial Partnerships and the Office of Corporate Relations, as well as the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. “We’re working together to accelerate the agility of the process,” says Thoma.
Every agreement plan will be slightly different. Thoma and Felix Lu, the Grainger Institute for Engineering assistant director for industrial outreach, fully expect continuous quality improvement with each iteration.
“The framework will help facilitate interactions like our new partnership with the Midwest Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC),” says Lu. “Our engagement with M-WERC is a great example of what we do in the institute.”
M-WERC has more than 90 members, partners and supporters, as well as a technology roadmap that’s very consistent with some of the Grainger Institute for Engineering research thrust areas, making the consortium an ideal collaborator. As part of its partnership, M-WERC has established a new office at UW-Madison in the Grainger Institute for Engineering. That office will be staffed both by Bruce Beihoff, the institute’s director of industrial and systems research, and Dan Ebert, managing director of M-WERC’s Madison office.
“This partnership will more closely align M-WERC and our members to the premier research institution in the University of Wisconsin System,” says Alan Perlstein, who is M-WERC CEO and executive director. “It represents another significant step in reaching across the Midwest to foster industrial collaboration and realize our goal of more quickly transitioning technology innovation into economic growth and job creation in the energy power and controls sector.”