Industry-academic engagement

Preserving Our Nation’s Technological Edge

The knowledge and technologies that move our society forward and preserve our national competitive advantage rely upon a highly skilled workforce that is adept at conducting complex scientific and technical research—and in translating its outcome into useful products and services. “Use inspired” research is driven by specific needs and interests and naturally focuses on socioeconomically advantageous application, whereas academic research tends to be driven by an intrinsic quest for new knowledge. Each has its role in overall technological development, however, the skills and knowledge crucial for success in these domains can differ significantly.

Throughout most of the 20th century, corporate-funded research created powerful innovations as well as an environment for collaboration with academia; this, in turn, created an obvious roadmap for talented technical minds interested in private-sector research. But since the 1980s, with a few notable fields as exceptions, there has been a significant reduction in long-term STEM-related corporate research. The result has been a stark decline in industry-academic collaboration, and the loss of a valuable mode of graduate education.

To uphold its national interests in sustained technological leadership, the U.S. needs to explore new models of STEM graduate education, most critically at the doctoral level.

Toward this end, Lehigh University and the National Science Foundation has partnered around the Pasteur Partners PhD (P3) Fellowship to develop meaningful dialogue among three groups of primary stakeholders:

  • industry leaders who hire STEM PhDs;
  • thought leaders and doctoral education experts; and,
  • leaders of Federal-level educational initiatives and funding agencies.

Representatives of each group have participated in Lehigh-hosted workshops and other interaction geared toward understanding relevant perspectives on the training necessary to prepare the ‘ideal PhD,’ and representatives of British, French, and German agencies that oversee successful industry-university partnerships have contributed by sharing their insight. Discussions to date have covered various aspects of doctoral education, promoting discourse among academic administrators and researchers, representatives of foundations, nonprofit and technical societies, legislators, and other interested parties.

To learn more about the growing consortium of institutions committing to this new model of industry-academia collaboration, email pasteur.phd@lehigh.edu.