Successful university research programs with extensive industry involvement

Robert M. Leicht, Bryan Franz, Keith R. Molenaar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Research spending by the private industry within the construction, engineering, and management domain is notably low. This paper explores the domain of academic-industry alliances, or research centers, which are wholly funded through private sector support. Through semistructured interviews with both industry and academic representatives from three such affiliations, which have been in existence for more than 15 years, critical factors affecting their success and longevity are explored. The interviewees represent academics with more than 10 years of experience in a leading role, or industry members with 10 or more years participating on an advisory board or similar capacity. The issues discussed include the following: consistent characteristics of the academics and programs, which lead to creation of a sustainable model; methods of integrating industry involvement; appropriate research topics; and the opportunities and obstacles of starting an industry research program. The results suggest that successful programs are not built around extremely specific research topics, but have the ability to continue to draw participation with new research questions at the appropriate stages. The engagement of industry should be early in the process to allow industry opportunity to shape the research problem and direction. However, even the industry members noted that the problems should not be immediate issues, but the underlying problems that will improve practice in the long-term. Also important was for faculty to facilitate an environment that allowed open sharing of research ideas and advancements. Industry participants who are not actively engaged, or who attempt to control the research scope, discourage other industry participants from supporting the project and program. Programs that appropriately manage relationships and balance the concerns of the industry experience symbiotic benefits, ranging from an abundance of project data, to consistent funding streams, and the resulting deliverables, graduates, and publications on which they are commonly evaluated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-62
Number of pages6
JournalPractice Periodical on Structural Design and Construction
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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