Industry support for Academia

During my Singapore visit on a panel and outside in some discussions, I found that many researchers (even some seasoned researchers) expect that Industry should support research. What they do not say is that they feel that industry should not expect anything in return.

Most big companies have funds for philanthropy and for partnerships. They are willing to give donations to academia from their philanthropy budget and expect hard deliverables when they fund research from their partnership (or let’s say research outsourcing) budget. The trouble is that the philanthropy budgets are usually not that big. And partnership budgets require some deliverables that academia does not like because it comes in the way of ‘free research’.

This cultural gap is interesting as well as intriguing. Given that there are not too many labs like the old famous Bell Labs, the basic research in industry is suffering. On the other hand, funding agencies, including National Science FOundation that is suppose to be primarily the basic research place, are becoming more short term oriented. So this is a confusing time in the academic research in USA. Academic researchers have strong competition, significantly more than they used to have, and changing cultural landscape. The implications for the country and the world are not certain. Pessimists think that this may result in a downward spiral for the basic research in USA; optimists believe that this challenge will result in more ‘relevant’ research by academia.

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