A New Starting Point for Industry to Engage with the U

Man in lab

John Bischof, PhD, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Science and Engineering, conducts tissue transplant research.

The University of Minnesota offers countless resources and opportunities for the private sector. At such a large institution, however, it can be difficult—or downright daunting—for those interested in collaborating to figure out where to start.

A new online portal serves as a front door for companies looking to start collaborating with the University. Industry Engagement at the U, developed by the University of Minnesota Foundation (UMF), provides a simple and straightforward way for industry leaders to see what opportunities exist for partnering with the University and, if interested, connect with University staff who can help them navigate the University system. The portal takes the guesswork out of academic-industry collaboration, which can be especially helpful for companies interested in working with UMN for the first time or those exploring new ways to work with the U.

Steven Corkery, UMF’s associate vice president of corporate and foundation relations, said companies big and small engage the University for a variety of reasons, from recruiting talent, to finding new opportunities for branding and visibility, to engaging their employees and executives, to sponsoring research.

“Our job is to help companies navigate the University and connect companies with resources at the University that will help them with their business needs,” Corkery said. “Often, the expertise of University faculty and the research infrastructure found here provide new ways to address these needs, and in some cases they inspire totally new ideas. The Industry Engagement at the U portal is one way we begin the conversations that ultimately lead to fruitful public-private collaborations.”

While the portal lets companies preview different options for engaging with the U, the process of seeking out those collaborations isn’t left to a website. University staff are ready to listen to companies’ needs, discuss their goals, and ensure they match up with the right University expert or group.

Many Ways to Engage

As a major research university, UMN can help to drive forward companies’ research and development goals. Companies can choose to sponsor research projects that explore new concepts in their areas of interest and that potentially could result in innovative technologies that the company can then license for use.

For example, Donaldson Company, a Minnesota-based global developer of filtration technologies, has sponsored a series of projects at the UMN College of Science and Engineering through the Minnesota Innovation Partnerships (MN-IP) program. Among these projects was a study of why, at the microscopic scale, its filter for removing tiny water droplets from diesel fuel works so well. The research stands to help Donaldson expand its already extensive knowledge of filtration fundamentals to better meet increasing customer needs for clean processes and fluids, while gaining insight into the next generation of filtration technology.

If a previous discovery fits their technology needs, companies can license out that discovery instead, developing it into a marketable product or service. They can also accelerate their own R&D efforts by arranging to make use of UMN’s cutting-edge research facilities and equipment, some of which may be hard to find anywhere else.

Beyond technology and innovation, there are many other ways for companies to engage with the University. Executives and employees from the private sector can participate on UMN boards, lend their expertise at conferences or in classrooms, or mentor the next generation of leaders. Companies can recruit talent to join their workforce or get involved in outreach efforts that help to support a diverse pipeline of future professionals. They may also choose to boost their visibility by hosting or sponsoring an event, or considering a naming opportunity.  

Visit Industry Engagement at the U to explore ways to connect with the University for talent, innovation, visibility, and more. Contact industry@umn.edu with questions.