HD39 - Response to Virginia Acts of Assembly (2004) Chapter 537: The "Human Capital" Report

Executive Summary:

Recognizing the history, recent trends and potential benefits of interactions and research collaborations between higher education and industry, Chapter 537 of the 2004 Virginia Acts of Assembly directs the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) to work toward eliminating the barriers between the Commonwealth’s institutions of higher education and industry by enhancing the development of human capital in Virginia. These efforts are to include attention to university-industry partnership incentives, shared facilities and labs, and various means of facilitating and rewarding the sharing of personnel across university and industry borders.

This report represents the State Council’s response to Chapter 537 and has been developed following conversations with key constituents and stakeholders in Virginia higher education and industry, as well as from review of relevant state and national reports. Beyond addressing the seven specific barriers from its enacting legislation, this report identifies multiple additional barriers—overarching barriers that SCHEV believes must also be addressed by the General Assembly, the State Council, the public colleges and universities, and their current and future corporate partners before real progress can be made toward increasing sponsored research, higher education-industry collaboration, and human-capital development in the Commonwealth.


Some of the most fundamental obstacles to university-industry collaborations arise from higher education and business being so different; they have very different missions and goals, as well as very different—sometimes conflicting—organizational and administrative cultures, structures and processes for accomplishing their missions and goals. To overcome these differences, higher-education institutions and corporations must strive to ensure that their collaborations pair campus expertise with company interests and that their results are ethical, publishable, and “applied” enough to satisfy corporate investors. When a university-industry collaboration is successful, the likelihood of one or more future collaborations between the partners is increased.

Other obstacles and barriers are beyond the control of corporations and public colleges/universities, such as laws and policies that govern all public entities. Discussions in previous state and national reports have focused on specific issues at the people or organizational levels, while tending to overlook or discount many of the broader, more overarching issues discussed in this issue brief. This SCHEV report concludes that, in order to achieve Chapter 537’s goals of eliminating the barriers between Virginia's institutions of higher education and industry and enhancing the development of human capital in the Commonwealth, multiples strategies—from the state level to the faculty level—must be employed. Taken together, the strategies recommended below form a roadmap for academic research in the Commonwealth and include actions that will be taken by the State Council as well as those that SCHEV believes should be taken by the General Assembly, potential corporate partners, and Virginia’s public colleges and universities.

What SCHEV Will Do. SCHEV will distribute this report’s findings, conclusions and strategies to its various constituencies, including its institutional advisory groups, and will urge them to consider the various strategies and recommendations offered herein for addressing the multiple barriers to higher education-industry collaboration.

Specifically, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia—within the context of its ongoing activities, its budgetary/staffing limitations and its current statutory responsibilities—will:

(1) convene a working group of research administrators to develop administration and management structures and charge this group with producing a set of specific recommendations for enhancing higher education-industry research collaboration;

(2) provide information and data to Virginia’s public colleges and universities to inform their deliberations about new innovations in human capital (e.g., faculty/industry researcher employment arrangements);

(3) locate and disseminate relevant research and policy documents from state, regional and/or academic higher-education entities; and

(4) assist Virginia’s institutions of higher education in identifying exemplary practices and/or models of incentivizing industry partnerships, sharing facilities and labs with corporate partners, and facilitating personnel sharing across campus-industry borders.

What Else Should Be Done.

RECOMMENDATION 1: The General Assembly should grant—to an existing or a new state entity—the authority, funding and staff to coordinate and facilitate the academic research of Virginia’s public colleges and universities, including the responsibility to address the various statute/policy-level, organization/institution-level and culture/people-level barriers to collaboration between industry and higher education detailed in this and previous reports.

RECOMMENDATION 2: The General Assembly should charge the state entity in Recommendation #1 with convening a task force of representatives from state government, higher education and industry to begin to address statutory and/or state-policy barriers to campus-corporation research collaboration, including Virginia’s conflict-of-laws statute and its requirements regarding arbitration, indemnification, intellectual property and state-employee salaries and benefits.

RECOMMENDATION 3: The state entity in Recommendation #1 should:

a. assist colleges, universities and corporations—perhaps via multiple regional entities—in identifying Virginia faculty, students and industry researchers who are interested in higher education-industry collaborations (via means such as faculty sabbaticals, extended leaves of absence, industry-researcher adjunct appointments and student internships), and in disseminating this information regionally and/or state-wide;

b. facilitate the establishment of inter-institutional partnerships with industry, including strategic collaborations with other states and countries; and

c. develop a plan to fund all recommendations that follow below.

RECOMMENDATION 4: Virginia’s public colleges and universities should:

a. ensure that their faculty hiring, promotion and tenure policies/processes address issues of collaboration with industry; and

b. share these policies/processes, as well as those regarding benefits, sabbaticals/leaves of absence and adjunct appointments, with one another.

RECOMMENDATION 5: Corporate partners, in their research collaborations with Virginia’s public colleges and universities, should:

a. provide guarantees that they will fund adjunct replacements for collaborating full-time faculty; and

b. compensate institutions fairly for the opportunity costs associated with their loss of agility in personnel matters (i.e., from extended faculty leaves of absence).

RECOMMENDATION 6: Virginia’s public colleges and universities should:

a. establish and maintain effective institutional offices (e.g., Technology Transfer; Corporate Relations) to support collaborations with industry, to communicate and manage expectations and to scout future potential opportunities; and

b. strengthen the coordination between and across these support offices, including co-location of some offices or functions.

RECOMMENDATION 7: Public colleges and universities should:

a. cultivate institutional “champions” for collaborations with industry;

b. establish a cooperative tone toward industry collaborations from the top of the institutions down; and

c. align their incentive policies and processes to encourage cross-campus teamwork and to promote collaborations with industry.

RECOMMENDATION 8: The state entity in Recommendation #1 should:

a. identify exemplary sections from model contracts/agreements that reduce or eliminate barriers to university-industry collaborations; and

b. disseminate these models/sections to Virginia’s public colleges and universities.

RECOMMENDATION 9: Virginia’s public colleges and universities should:

a. ensure that their patent, copyright and licensing policies comply with recent state and federal legislation; and

b. consider structuring their policies to enhance industry collaboration and to facilitate intellectual-property commercialization.

RECOMMENDATION 10: Neither the Commonwealth of Virginia nor its public colleges and universities should view industry funding as an appropriate substitute for adequate, long-term public financing of basic academic research.