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Catalysing university research – Vincent Heeringa

Posted in Reflections On Science on February 21st, 2013.

Tangible Media Publisher Vincent Heeringa describes an interesting German university-industry partnership for Idealog.

An excerpt (read in full here):

Catalysing university research

The search for the perfect university-industry collaboration goes on. I’ve seen it operating brilliantly in Israel.

Our own universities all sport incubators and tech transfer offices.  But one I visited in Aachen, Germany, is the smartest so far.

Called the Catalytic Centre or CAT for short, it’s a joint venture between RWTH Aachen, a technical university, and Bayer Material Sciences. The CAT specialises in catalysis, the unique combination of molecules, heat and pressure that causes chemical reactions to happen.

The topic of catalysis may make your eyes water with boredom, but it’s interesting to anyone in chemistry. And the CAT is working on plenty of interesting projects, including the creation of plastic from waste C02.

More relevant for us though is the structure of the collaboration between the university and Bayer. Together the two have committed 20 million euros over 10 years to fund the centre’s research programme. In return Bayer gets access to all the intellectual property that might emerge from collaboration.

At first blush this seems imbalanced. In most university-industry collaborations the university attempts to retain a chunk of IP, indeed often times as much as 30 percent.  Our Crown Research Institutes frequently try to retain IP that can then be licensed for profit.

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