NIST Study

What makes successful public university- industry partnerships

Federal Study to Examine What Makes Successful Public Research University-Industry Partnerships

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) selected the University of Michigan’s Economic Growth Institute to study successful collaborations between public research universities and private technology developers as well as federal research laboratories (FRLs).

The NIST-funded study will explore the technology partnerships at universities that have received the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Innovation and Economic Prosperity (IEP) Universities designation. The IEP designation recognizes institutions for their contributions to regional economic development. This 12-month study runs from November 1, 2017 to October 31, 2018. The Institute’s research  team includes three lead investigators, and 15 talented staff, graduate-student interns, and Research Associates. There are several components to this complex, exploratory study:

Surveys and IEP Designation Applications

During the months of July and August (2018), our research team is sending out over 400 confidential, 15-minute surveys to a diverse panel at each of the 55 IEP universities (n > 400). Each survey panel consists of several students, staff, and faculty referred to us by our 55 IEP key contacts at each university. These surveys will be coded and analyzed in concert with the original applications for each of the 55 IEP designated universities (n = 55).

The research team is also sending brief surveys to select federal research laboratories across the U.S. to learn more about the role of Public Research University-Federal-Laboratory collaborations in technology innovation.


Our research team is interviewing one professor from each of the 55 IEP universities (n = 55) who has lab to market or bench to bedside, technology development experience. This type of experience ranges from the development of hardware, software, apps, and websites, to technology-related processes, diagnostic tools, and biomedical devices.

We are also interviewing a select group of around 25 thought leaders inside and outside of the IEP-university-environment, exploring diverse perspectives from big-industry, startups, foundations, and the open-source software and hardware community (n = 25).

Secondary Data

Our research team is also aggregating and analyzing data from a variety of sources, ranging from public databases to SBIR/STTR abstracts, to help us better understand the role of IEP universities within larger technology research clusters and networks. We are developing a prototype of a website to highlight some of these clusters and networks, and share some of our findings on best practices in both technology development and cross-sector collaboration.

Identification of Six Pilot Projects
With guidance from our advisory board, we aim to identify best practices for accelerating the development and movement of innovative technologies from bench to bedside and from lab to market. A key goal of this project is to increase the impact of federal funding at research universities by helping them foster collaborations beyond the confines of academia. The identified best practices will also inform recommendations for six pilot-programs that will help disseminate, support, and accelerate practices that lead to technological innovation.

Confidentiality Statement
All data collected from surveys and interviews for this study will be kept confidential. This means that we will never share identifying information about any of our study participants.

Additional Questions About the Study
Feel free to be in touch with the Senior Project Manager for this study, Dr. Elizabeth Austic, who would be happy to talk with you more about the study. She can be reached at (734) 998-7576 or emailed at