Fostering Collaboration and Innovation: Baylor-Industry Research Partnerships

January 27, 2020
The fruits of university-industry research partnerships are recognized throughout the business world. In a recent Baylor University-Texas Business Journals survey, which featured input from nearly 600 Texas business leaders, more than 8 in 10 respondents said universities should be involved in addressing industry challenges, while 75 percent of all respondents described a favorable impression of businesses who partner with universities for research.

Between the favorability ratings and the businesses who have actually partnered with universities, however, lies a gap. The survey found that only 30 percent of organizations have actually partnered with universities on research, despite its high favorability. Between impressions and actions, leaders report, are concerns of red tape, cost or lack of expertise or research focus as factors keeping them from having yet partnered. A sizable group (39 percent) said they were unsure why they had not yet engaged in university-industry research partnerships.

At Baylor University, barriers to university-industry research partnerships have been eliminated through a menu of potential collaboration opportunities. This focus comes at a pivotal time in the University’s history, with the stated goals of Illuminate, Baylor’s strategic plan, guiding the university towards the pursuit of R1/Tier 1 research status. Inside Baylor’s Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR), faculty and staff are connected with industry to address today’s challenges and provide solutions that impact future processes and technological innovations.

“Industry has been an important component of what we’ve done at Baylor for some time,” Kevin Chambliss, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Research, says, “and we’re working from a strong philosophical standpoint on having industry as a partner. It’s a unique moment, at this time in our history, to put a stake in the ground for a process that’s different than most universities—an approach that streamlines the process of doing business with us.”

OPPORTUNITIES FOR COLLABORATION

Over the years Baylor faculty and staff have listened to the needs of industry partners and have customized the University’s collaboration opportunities. Every company is different; therefore, Baylor creates a unique partnership to match company goals.

Within Baylor OVPR, the Technology Commercialization and Industry Engagement team acts as the portal through which industry and Baylor are connected. Through Baylor’s unique perspective towards industry engagement, there are many ways for companies to interact with Baylor to pursue research-based solutions:

  • Sponsored and Collaborative Research Agreements

  • Baylor acts as university partner to obtain grants such as SBIRs and STTRs

  • Access to the Lab to Market Collaborative resources and processes

  • Access to external partners of the University creating an extended network and ongoing research possibilities

  • Ability to license technology developed within the University

  • Further development of existing company ideas, processes or technologies

  • Access to the University’s Research Facilities



AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH

Baylor has joined forces with Blueprints Lab, and Waco Ventures to create the Lab to Market Collaborative - a systematic and proven model and approach to commercialize technology out of the University and into the marketplace.

“As a university, you have to demonstrate that you can take concepts, theories and papers and turn them into products for the market,” Todd Buchs, Assistant Vice Provost for Research-Technology Commercialization and Industry Development, says. “That’s how our lab-to-market model becomes effective. We’re working together to move concept technologies from the lab to the market very quickly. Industry partners are looking for a disciplined process that recognizes core competencies to produce a product. That’s what we’re doing.”

Baylor’s approach involves a recognition of those core competencies of each partner and in each step of the research and development process. A university’s core competency is lived out through visionary faculty and students who conduct compelling research, motivated by a desire to solve industry and societal challenges, that leads to the invention of solution-driven products. The creation of Intellectual Property (IP) is a strength—commercializing that IP involves strategic partners.

“Our core is not technology commercialization,” Buchs said. “But, we want to see that take place, because every inventor wants to see their invention make a difference. That can be a difficult process if you’re not skilled in that. And that’s why we have teammates.”

Through strategic partnerships with external organizations, Baylor is creating what Chambliss calls a “glide path, a place where the university stays in its lane of creation and partners with organizations outside the university to help with technology planning, venture funding and more.” Those partners exercise their core competencies to streamline the process of getting an idea from the lab to market. Baylor’s strategic flexibility on the ownership of IP removes an additional obstacle sometimes inherent in the process.

“Who owns the Intellectual Property,” Buchs asks. “From the very beginning, we’ve been flexible. We ask what the partner wants. We can do everything from the partner owning the IP from the start, to university ownership and licensing, or anything in between. We want these products out there, impacting the world.”

INFRASTRUCTURE

Baylor’s research infrastructure is headlined by the strategic focus of Illuminate and by Baylor’s core research facilities, which provide university and industry partners with the focus, funding and facilities needed to conduct groundbreaking research.

The university’s research commitment, as spelled out in Illuminate, is undergirded by strategic university investment and buttressed by Give Light, the $1.1 billion philanthropic campaign that prioritizes research from a number of angles. This focus enhances the dynamic research already taking place campus-wide.

Over the last 15 years, further development towards this moment in the university’s history came through the construction of the Baylor Sciences Building (BSB) and Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative(BRIC). The BSB offers more than 500,00 square feet of state-of-the art labs, classrooms and offices. The BRIC, a technologically-advanced and environmentally-friendly facility, by its design sparks interdisciplinary research, economic development and transformative partnerships between educational institutions, government and industry. Its more than 330,000 square-feet provides the physical proximity and space needed for university and industry to work together on groundbreaking research.

“The BRIC is an R1 facility that accommodates our industry partners within that space,” Buchs says. “We’re not looking for tenants, but partners that want to have long-term partnerships within Baylor on research and development where they win by getting what they need—access to faculty and students and solutions to the problems they face.”

OPEN FOR BUSINESS

“As we move down this path, we’re making a conscious effort to streamline the process of research partnerships with industry,” Chambliss says. “There’s more coming, from internal funding for prototypes to an online industry portal. We want it to be easy to do business with us.”

Industry’s entry point of contact is through Todd Buchs in OVPR’s Technology Commercialization and Industry Engagement. Contact information is available through the office’s webpage , which features further information about research & development and technology commercialization, as well as corporate philanthropy.

“This is a unique moment for Baylor,” Chambliss says. “Illuminate is a fantastic plan, we’ve got a model for industry partnerships, and we’ve got students and faculty who like applied problems and want to make a difference in the world. We’ve got a focus on interdisciplinary research and problem-solving, with core facilities maintained and sustained to foster that. We’re open for business, are looking for partners and ready to address real-world challenges together.”
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