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Places like the old Bell Labs and Genentech gRED have an environment where the scientists publish quite a lot. Suppose I wanted to build my research R&D departments to have strong academic ties. What would I need to have in place to keep in touch with academia?

  • Great question! Is your goal to keep open the option of moving back to academia, or simply to stay in touch professionally with your academic friends? Personally, I'd love to hear answers for both. – eykanal Aug 8 '12 at 22:54
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    It's worth pointing out that this depends a lot on the field. Some areas (like CS or genomics) often have very strong ties between industry and academia. It's not necessarily easy to build such ties in a new company, but it's a widely recognized and valued tradition in the field. On the other hand, math doesn't have this tradition. There have been several noteworthy examples over the years (for example, Bell Labs) where people pulled this off in mathematics, but each one is something of an isolated case. – Anonymous Mathematician Aug 9 '12 at 13:03
  • What field are you in? If you're in mathematics, it's just impossible; if you're in computer science, it should be quite easy. (And with very exceptions--- say, Microsoft Research--- places like the old Bell Labs no longer exist. Research for research's sake is not really something industry does.) – anomaly Feb 29 '16 at 21:52
  • @anomaly I'm in biopharma. Publishing from industry is quite common. – bobthejoe Mar 3 '16 at 15:40
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People tend to do whatever gets rewarded. So if you want your department to establish strong academic ties, then find ways to formally reward that. In addition, people do stuff that they like to do when they don't have to cut through red tape. In particular, you should

  • Make it easy for your researchers to attend conferences
  • Establish a culture of seminars, and make it easy to bring external visitors
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    Have a decent summer intern program. It brings in fresh blood on a regular basis – Suresh Aug 9 '12 at 9:11
  • I agree with Suresh: a intern (or student placement program) benefits the company by bringing in (hopefully motivated and talented) youngsters. The student benefits by obtaining extremely valuable experience. You would be in pretty continual contact with the academics at the one or more institutions for which you have set up a student placement program so you will benefit from the latest advances. Institutions these days are very keen to show that their students are employable and my experience is that they highly value their industrial partners who take placement students. – Nicholas Aug 9 '12 at 11:40
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Start collaborative projects with members of university departments. Initially, this could begin as informal collaborations, but ideally start submitting collaborative research proposals to relevant funding bodies. For certain funding sources, having an industrial partner strengthens the collaboration. In fact, some funding sources are only available if an industrial partner is on board. The catch here is that sometimes the funding agencies require that the industrial partner commit resources, although others (such as EU FP7) will provide funding for industrial partners.

Many academics in university departments will be willing to form such a collaboration if it provides them another (potentially easier) way of getting funding. From that perspective, you have a strong position, assuming that you have the track record to convince funding agencies that giving you money is a good idea.

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