Industry Partnerships for Researchers

University of Minnesota researchers are often leaders in their fields and in finding solutions to challenging research questions. Working with a commercial partner to scale or bring an invention or idea to market is an important way for University researchers to have an impact on our society. Those interactions raise further questions for fundamental research, leading to a virtuous circle of basic and applied research and development.

group of people making business deal, shaking hands

Some possible benefits include:

  • Learning about problems important to industry
  • Obtaining additional research funding
  • Making new connections
  • Providing pathways for your students to be hired by a company

To get started, first read information provided here to learn how faculty and researchers partner with industry. Then review our Industry Partnerships Guide for the basics of developing successful industry partnerships and read Best Practices for First-Time Industry Meetings.

When you are ready to begin the journey towards commercialization, contact

    Ways to Partner with Industry

    Collaborate on Industry-Sponsored Projects 

    Company-Sponsored (Funded) Research
    A common way researchers engage with a company is through a research project fully funded by the company. The researcher and company work together to define the scope of work, deliverables, budget, and timeline that address an innovation need of the company. 

    Collaborate on Federally Funded Projects (Subawards, SBIR, STTR)
    More and more federal funding is requiring or rewarding partnerships between academia and industry. Like universities, many large corporations receive federal funding for research. Small companies and startups seek SBIR and STTR funding. Either the large corporation, small business entity, or the university can subaward federal funding to another entity. 

    Student Class or Capstone Projects
    Companies that sponsor class projects like capstone or senior design projects engage students to do a small research or development project while meeting potential future hires.

    Having trouble determining your partnership’s category? Consult the Fund Bucket Project Definitions or contact SPA ( with your questions.

    Technologies & Startups

    Bringing your research into the commercial world helps accelerate and scale its impact outside the University. Partner with Technology Commercialization staff when looking for step-by-step guidance to commercialize your technology or license your technology, including possible startup company creation with the Venture Center

    Many large corporations form strategic partnerships to invest in UMN startups through their venture investing groups and later-stage startups may be a good acquisition for a large company.   

    The Commercialization Coaching Card has tips on how to begin commercializing your invention with industry. Technology Commercialization offers even more resources and useful information for University Inventors.

    UMN Research Infrastructure

    Many researchers are involved with specialized facilities and instrumentation, research consortia, or research centers that have external advisors. These activities may be opportunities for industry collaboration. Interested researchers should explore their college or unit connections or inquire with the Corporate Engagement Center for possible ideas.  

    Selling Services - Use of Labs, Facilities, and Instrumentation
    The University has instrumentation, labs, and other facilities that a company may not have. UMN researchers can run tests or perform analyses for companies. If the company wants to run its own samples, companies can be trained and pay a fee to use certain instrumentation and equipment in specific labs. Researchers may provide testing and other services that are not classified as “research” to companies under an external sales agreement. 

    Multiple companies participate in a pre-competitive research consortia. Companies pay a fee to join and provide direction on the research projects of the consortia. Researchers benefit by gaining knowledge of industry challenges and priorities, demonstrating impact, informing future possible research directions, accessing financial support, and providing opportunities for student internships and future employment. Consult with your associate dean for research for guidance on consortia.

    Advisory Boards
    Researchers may invite industry partners to serve as advisors to centers, departments, and institutes they are associated with. Industry partners provide input that impacts teaching, project-based learning, research priorities, and job prospects for students.

    Resources & Support


    SPARC is an institutional hub that assists UMN faculty, staff, and students in innovative projects and global opportunities.


    The NSF-funded MIN-Corps initiative increases research-based technology commercialization capabilities and activities.