University-Industry Collaboration and Its Impact on Manufacturing

Leading German and U.S. experts discussed best practice examples of university-industry relations and their impact on regional development at the German Center for Research and Innovation on November 7, 2012.

In the U.S., Albany and Pittsburgh are examples of regions in which the economy has turned around as a result of successful university-industry collaboration. According to Dr. Marc Malandro, Associate Vice Chancellor for Technology Management and Commercialization at the University of Pittsburgh, the university’s commercialization efforts and industrial invention transfers have led to a “manufacturing comeback.” The university’s start-up companies have attracted over $400 million in investments to the Pittsburgh region.

Dr. Robert E. Geer, Chief Academic Officer at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE), University of Albany, SUNY, presented CNSE as a financially and technically competitive environment to empower nanotech companies in New York State. Based on a shared-use co-location model, CNSE established an on-campus work and life infrastructure for students, faculty members, and collaborating companies, and provides shared facilities, joint investments and financing opportunities.

Dr. Bernd Reissert, President of the Berlin School of Economics and Law, indicated that innovation capacity in Germany is linked to firms’ embeddedness into a highly decentralized system of research organizations and applications oriented universities. Whereas American universities collaborate with larger companies for additional resources to conduct basic research, German educational institutions partner with SMEs on a client-based scale. Dr. Hans-Jürgen Pfisterer, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences, highlighted labor market differences. The “German Mittelstand,” which consists of mostly family-owned small and medium-sized companies, considers a candidate’s potential and personality for long-term job development. U.S. companies tend to hire top-of-the-field candidates for particular job purposes.

The speakers agreed on a common interest in public investment for education, training, and research. Innovative German and U.S. manufacturers depend on universities to cultivate a highly skilled and adaptable workforce. The benefits of university-industry collaboration are two-fold: Companies share resources and investments, while universities serve as early-stage recruitment centers where students train with cutting-edge equipment and are integrated into work environments of future employers. Dr. Kaushik Kumar from Tokyo Electron (TEL), which established its first R&D facility outside of Japan on the CNSE campus, emphasized that “without a qualified workforce, we are not able to push R&D forward.”

Successful university-industry collaboration results in increased workforce development and more students. The economic impact can be measured with the number of companies attracted to the university, regional investments, and job creation.

The event was sponsored by the German Center for Research and Innovation and UAS7, German Universities of Applied Sciences. UAS7 is a strategic alliance of seven leading German universities of applied sciences committed to excellence in teaching and research. This ‘alliance for excellence‘ includes the Berlin School of Economics and Law, Bremen University of Applied Sciences (UAS), Cologne UAS, Hamburg UAS, Munich UAS, Münster UAS and Osnabrück UAS. UAS7 is represented in the U.S. and Canada by its Liaison Office in New York City.

A video of the event can be watched (

The German Center for Research and Innovation provides information and support for the realization of cooperative and collaborative projects between North America and Germany. With the goal of enhancing communication on the critical challenges of the 21st century, GCRI hosts a wide range of events from lectures and exhibitions to workshops and science dinners. Opened in February 2010, GCRI was created as a cornerstone of the German government’s initiative to internationalize science and research and is one of five centers worldwide.


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