Industry and academia have had a long, and often rocky relationship. Each referring to the other as “The Dark Side”. But it’s continuously improving, and now they’re moving in together: Companies are on campus.
In this podcast I speak to Jana Capson-Watts, associate director at The BioFrontiers Institute, a company based on campus at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is also a co-author of a comment article in this week’s Nature University Special. And at the end, there’s a short piece from Geoff Marsh and the Nature podcast about cross-disciplinary research at universities.
The relationship between academia and industry started in the early 11th Century, when Europe first started establishing universities. Since then they have developed into the beacons of society, becoming a space for learning and discovery, for study and understanding, for scholarship. It’s walls have housed some of the most intelligent brains in the world and have seen some extraordinary things. But one thing was for sure: before the early 20th century, not much thought was given to collaborating with technology and industry.
This all changed in 1945, when Vannevar Bush wrote a report called “Science: The Endless Frontier” for the then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The report emphasised the importance of academia toward the growth of the economy. This, combined with the incredible amount of government money that was spent on scientific research during WWII and the Cold War, demonstrated how industry, government and universities could work together towards a common goal. Since then, technology transfer offices have started breaking down the barriers between industry and academia.
The barriers are now so low that some companies have taken the plunge and have moved onto campus. This can be beneficial for everyone involved: proximity is the key to collaboration here. By having industry on campus, students can gain insights into how industry operates. Networks are also expanded beyond academia and the opportunity to work in an industrial setting for your graduate or postgraduate projects can be an added advantage.
Whether you’re looking to stay in academia or move away (or you have no solid plans yet), taking the opportunity to find out more about how industry operates might provide useful later on in your career.