The factors driving the establishment of the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Centers (ERC) Program, and the background from which it sprang, were described in Chapter 1, “ERC Program Origins”—particularly in sections 1-B(d) and (e). A major motive for the Program from the beginning was to reconnect academic engineering with U.S. industry, a connection that had largely been lost in the years following World War II.
6-A(a) Motivation: Increase the Productivity and Creativity of Engineers in Industry
By the mid-1980s, the U.S. economy was in trouble. The American automobile industry in particular was in sharp decline due to Japanese competition. Consumer electronics, steel, and other major manufacturing industries were also under severe pressure from Japan as well as from European nations that had largely recovered from the devastation of World War II. America’s near-monopoly on world economic power was ending, and a restructuring of academic engineering research and education was needed to help boost U.S. industry’s economic competitiveness. As the summary of a symposium held at the National Academy of Engineering to introduce the first class of ERCs put it:
…this is the beginning of a new era, in terms of world technological dynamics and in terms of the roles of engineering practice and research… The goal of the program is ‘to develop fundamental knowledge in engineering fields that will enhance the international competitiveness of U.S. industry and prepare engineers to contribute more effectively through better engineering practice.’
It was a goal that the Reagan Administration shared, as the White House Science Advisor, Jay Keyworth, had been a leading proponent of such a program and had requested the NAE Guidelines study that laid out a blueprint for what would soon be the NSF’s ERC Program. A key emphasis of the guidelines was that the relationship between academic engineering faculty and their industry counterparts must be “real,” mutually beneficial, and grounded in industrially important problems that required intellectual rigor to solve. In other words, faculty researchers and industry researchers and practitioners would be expected to form teams, including students, in a partnership that would accelerate U.S. industry’s progress toward the discovery and innovation of next-generation technologies and commercialized products that would help U.S. industry regain its competitive strength. An important byproduct of this partnership would be graduates who understand how to operate in industry both creatively and productively, as global technology leaders.
6-A(b) Form Active Partnerships
Meeting this requirement would require a level of collaboration between academic faculty and industry not seen since World War II, running directly counter to the trends described in Chapter 1, wherein engineering faculty tried as far as possible to distance themselves from the hands-on, can-do, “builder” image of engineers and engineering in order to enhance their academic prestige vis-à-vis scientists. The partnerships between university-based centers and industry would have to be active, involving not just industry funding but frequent meetings, industrial input into the research program, collaborative research, direct transfer of technology, and personal involvement with students on the part of industry mentors. In effect, it required a new culture on campus.
6-A(c) Initial Program Choices and Decisions Regarding the Role of Industry
At the outset, planning for the role of industry in ERCs took concrete form in the first ERC Program Announcement. As described in Chapter 2, section 2-A(b), in the internal NSF discussions leading up to that announcement the fundamental guiding principle was that long-term partnerships with industry would enable ERCs to make the various kinds of connections needed to meet their goals. These connections would include direct industrial involvement in ERC proposal review, research and education strategic planning, the integration of research into early-stage technology development, and site visit/reviews.
Key features required of the first ERCs, from the standpoint of industry involvement, included a requirement that they “Provide research opportunities to develop fundamental knowledge in areas critical to U.S. competitiveness in world markets” and that “The focus of the Center should be on a major technological concern of both industrial and national importance.” They were also required to “Include in the Center the participation of engineers and scientists from industrial organizations in order to focus the activities on current and projected industry needs.” The linkage between Center research and industrial competitiveness was thus made explicit and unavoidable. The Administration’s intentions in funding the Program and the NAE’s advice in laying out its characteristics were all clearly being heeded.
These requirements were based on an internal analysis that the ERCs must have a strong base in fundament research, guided by its systems goals and the interests of industry but they must not become “job shops” for industry.
6-B Building Sustained Partnerships with Industry
If ERCs were to achieve their challenging goal of developing a new culture in academe in which engineering research is viewed as a critical linchpin in the translation of knowledge generated by basic sciences to its use in society, sustained partnership with industry would be the driving force for this culture change. In his address to the Symposium at the National Academy of Engineering that announced the first class of ERCs, Roland Schmitt, then the Senior Vice President for Corporate Research and Development of the General Electric Company, laid out the role of sustained partnerships with industry in ERCs as a critical piece of the puzzle of how to strengthen U.S. competitiveness.
I believe that the main way in which engineering research and education can contribute to the international competitive position of the United States is by bridging and shortening the gap between the generation of knowledge and its application in the marketplace. Today fundamental knowledge is one of our most effective forms of foreign aid. Unfortunately, it happens to be foreign aid for our rivals—most notably the Japanese.
Schmitt noted that fundamental research should not be abandoned in favor of support of only applied research or product development and he went on to advise that, “We must build on, rather than abandon, one of our greatest strengths – our fundamental research capability. But we also must ensure that it is our nation, not another, that receives most of the benefit from that strength. How can we do this? First and foremost, we must put our own fundamental advances to use more quickly than others do. We have to increase our effort in the kind of research that bridges the gap between fundamental scientific research and application. That kind of research is engineering research.”
He pointed out that engineering researchers tend to be overlooked, as national policies tend to focus on supporting fundamental science and industry does a good job of supporting engineers, while there is little support for engineering researchers who have proven to be “enormously valuable assets in international technological and economic competition.” He indicated that they tend not to replicate themselves, as that takes years of experience in industry or scientific laboratories and a desire to see knowledge become useful. He also noted that academic engineering programs were not designed to produce that type of engineering researcher; rather, they produce graduates who are “engineering scientists” who go on to practice in industry or in academe. As a result of these missing educational elements there is a gap between generation of knowledge and the application of knowledge. And there is a gap between the apprenticeship of potential engineering researchers and the role they will eventually fill. The Engineering Research Centers have been designed to bridge those gaps.”
Schmidt understood that bridging those gaps through ERCs is a nuanced effort that has several elements:
- Bridging gaps between universities and industry should carry much more than money. It is not sending problems, it is not creating industrial R&D labs in universities and it is “not building robots for industry but it is generating an understanding of knowledge representation,” or “developing unit operations concepts for biological processes.” All this will be achieved through a “two-way flow of information.” From industry should flow the barrier problems and from universities should flow the knowledge and talent needed to overcome them. The goal is to “orient them (universities) toward areas of fundamental research that are most needed by industry.”
- Bridging gaps among engineering disciplines through Engineering Research Centers needs “organizations whose shape is dictated by the problem to be solved or the type of result needed, rather than by the disciplines involved.” This will entail a “clash of cultures; the problem-solving culture of engineering practice versus the disciplinary culture of engineering science. There will be resistance to change.” “However, in my view such an interaction of cultures does not weaken the disciplinary base; on the contrary, it strengthens it. Programs that transcend disciplines can enhance disciplinary research by revitalizing established fields and creating new one.”
- Bridging gaps within the innovation process will require embedding “engineering research in the total process of innovation—a process that extends from identifying the market all the way though production, quality control, maintenance and improvement of the first product into a real winner. These parts of the innovation process cannot be separated into watertight compartments. The separation of marketing and engineering has killed many promising innovations in their early states” because marketing people know little about the future of a technology and technologists know little about future users so as to design the technology appropriately. “The separation of engineering and manufacturing can be just as fatal” for the same kinds of reasons. “To rectify this situation, a total process awareness is built into the Engineering Research Centers.” He went on to describe an experiment carried out by the then late George Low, former President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and NASA Administrator, to give students the full engineering experience of advancing technology. “To train engineers, he (Lowe) believed, it was not enough just to expose them to course work in the classroom and the laboratory; they also had to experience the frustration and the excitement of putting advanced technology to work. In one particular project the students conceived of a product – a glider made of new composite materials—and then immersed themselves in all the difficulties involved in ‘getting a product out the back door.’ For the final exam they were apparently required to test fly the glider themselves! Fortunately, the glider flew.” “The Engineering Research Centers should accustom students to the idea that the engineer does research in order to do, not merely in order to know.”
This was the mantra that inspired the NSF ERC team, and especially Lynn Preston, because it resonated with her background in economics, her experience in addressing national needs through the RANN Program, and her commitment to strengthening the role of engineering in industrial competitiveness. She internalized this guidance as she developed the industrial collaboration feature of the ERC Program. For her, the “customers” for the program were industry and the students the ERCs were educating. This orientation impacted how she designed the goals and requirements for ERC industrial collaboration and guided its development over time. The goal was to strengthen ERCs for those customers in order to strengthen the competitiveness of the U.S. economy.
6-C Membership and Involvement: The Early Years – Gen-1 (1985-1990)
6-C(a) Background Culture in NSF, Academe, and Industry
i. Cultural Readiness at NSF
At the start of the ERC Program, the ERC team had experience in supporting interdisciplinary research programs through the RANN and ASRA programs, as discussed in Chapter 1. Pete Mayfield had working experience in industry. No one on the team had supported centers, but Lynn Preston had supported small interdisciplinary groups. In NSF there was some experience in supporting industry/university collaboration in centers and promoting innovation through grants to small businesses. Industry/university cooperation in research centers had been operating since the RANN days; and by 1985, these centers were formally designated as the Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers (I/UCRC) Program.
These small I/UCRCs were supported largely by industry and their research programs were problem-focused and applied; research agendas were set by industry. When the ERC Program was created, the decision was made to sustain both types of industry-oriented programs because they had differing goals and breadth—actually serving two different points on the R&D continuum. The I/UCRCs were narrower in focus, often problem-focused in response to near-term industry needs. While students gained an industrial perspective from the industrial involvement in these centers, the I/UCRCs did not have a broad education mandate to develop a “new breed” of engineer, as the ERCs did. NSF’s support was purposefully kept to a minimum in I/UCRCs at $100,000–$200,000 per year so that industrial support and views would dominate. In contrast, the ERCs had a broader mission to integrate research, education, and industrial collaboration and to support research that spanned from fundamentals to applied research and experimentation in testbeds to advance technology. Consequently, to support that broader mission, NSF funding for ERCs was orders of magnitude higher than in the I/UCRCs, ranging from $2 to $3 million per year. In addition, the role of industry and government would be linked in the ERCs in a new type of Industry/University/Government partnership.
With the reorganization of the Directorate for Engineering in 1985, the I/UCRC Program was brought into the Directorate and housed with the ERC Program in the Office of Cross-Disciplinary Research (OCDR). This reinforced the separation of the roles of the two programs on the R&D continuum and served to provide an increased industry/university culture for the staff that led and managed the ERC Program. In addition, the movement of the Small Business Innovation Research Program into OCDR brought some lessons on how to effectively engage small businesses in research in partnerships with faculty. The addition of Fred Betz to the ERC PD team in 1986 brought his experience in supporting small university/industry projects in ASRA, designed to bring the two sectors together in research projects relevant to industrial needs.
ii. Cultural Readiness for Industrial Collaboration in Academe
In academe, as discussed in Section 6-A, close collaboration with industry was not encouraged and forming teams across disciplines to address technology goals—or any research goals, for that matter—also was not encouraged or incentivized. The product expected from research was discovery of new knowledge and publications as well as continued research support from non-academic sources. The idea of integrating research and education was not on the radar. There were essentially two faculty communities in academic engineering: professors focused on research with little knowledge of educational pedagogy and professors focused on education with little research experience. Research was carried out by the research-focused professors and their teams of graduate and post-graduate students. Some undergraduates were engaged in research toward the end of their undergraduate years, with the aim of encouraging enrollment in graduate research programs and careers in academe. There was little knowledge of industrial practice. There was some NSF history of support of undergraduate involvement in research but not during the academic year. In 1958, NSF established the Undergraduate Research Participation Program, and funding for that program continued until FY 1982, when it was abolished in the Reagan Administration cuts of NSF education funding. A program to enhance research experiences for undergraduates was reestablished in FY 1987 with the title Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU).
iii. Cultural Readiness for Academic Collaboration in Industry
Some larger industrial R&D laboratories carried out their own long-term and relatively high-risk research and also supported some academic research, which tended to be more applied and problem-focused. Many firms had become members of the Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers that had been funded over the 10–15-year period prior to the establishment of the ERC Program. As was noted earlier, those interactions tended toward applied and problem-focused research. There was little or no industrial experience in joining in partnership with NSF to fund long-term high-risk but industrially relevant research, or to fund educational efforts designed to change the skills and experience base of graduating engineers, as described earlier in Roland Schmidt’s address. The General Accounting Office reported that the firms participating in the early classes of ERCs spent “most of their research budgets for internal research. Only 5 percent of the participants reported that over 50 percent of the current research budget was for external research and development. About 78 percent reported spending 10 percent or less of their research budget on external research and development.”
6-C(b) Evolution in First-generation Partnerships
The ERC Program’s mission was to create a new culture that would join government, universities, and industry in support of the competitiveness of U.S. industry. Given the cultural challenges involved in achieving that mission, in the first ERC solicitation the key feature defined for the industrial collaboration programs of the first Class of ERCs (1985) broke new ground. That feature was defined as:
- Focus on major technological concern of both industrial and national importance;
- Prepare engineering graduates with the diversity and quality of education needed by U.S. industry and expose future engineers to many aspects of engineering rather than one specific field and better prepare them for the systems nature of engineering practice;
- Provide working relations between industry engineers and scientists;
- Include participation of engineers and scientists from industrial organization involved in engineering practice and their expected contrition to identifying and reaching the goals of the center.
- Emphasize the synthesis of engineering knowledge,integrate different disciplines…to solve issues important to engineering practitioners.
In response to these requirements, the first class of six ERCs awarded in 1985 had the following features in their industrial collaboration programs:
University of California at Santa Barbara, Center for Robotic Systems in Microelectronics:
- A project-focused approach to industrial
collaboration called the “systems house,” wherein:
- A company would select a project with the faculty;
- Project design and execution would occur in the center with the collaboration of a company-assigned engineer;
Columbia University, Engineering Center for Telecommunications Research, based on an I/UCRC:
- Provide a systems environment through a flexible network test bed called MAGNET supporting data, facsimile, voice, and video communications in close collaboration with industry;
- Expand the industrial collaboration program of the previously funded I/UCRC;
- Expand the Industrial Advisory Board to include government research leaders to provide advice, suggestions for research direction, industrial involvement and education activities and to participate in an annual technical review;
- Annual industrial visitors program through which engineers and scientists from industry will participate in research and teaching.
University of Delaware/Rutgers University, Center for Composite Materials, based on two I/UCRCs established in 1974 at Delaware and 1978 at Rutgers.
- A University/Industry Research Program (U/IRP) will support expansion of facilities, visiting industrial personnel at the center, joint research projects, visiting scholar program to industry,
- Industrial participation in oversight through an Industrial Advisory Board (members only from the U/IRP, a Manufacturing Science Advisory Board, and a Science Advisory Board).
University of Maryland/Harvard University, Systems Research Center:
- Membership through the Systems Research Affiliates (SRA) to provide a foundation for continuous collaboration in research and education;
- Industrial Liaison Office within the ERC to manage a program of industrial collaboration with three grades of membership depending on the find and level of involvement: Sustaining Affiliate, Sponsoring Affiliate, and Affiliate;
- Participation will include joint research projects, exchange of scientific personnel, sharing of equipment, development of a shared library, use of industry laboratories for testbeds, specialized education for practicing engineers, a coop program for students, representation by industry in all of the SRC’s management boards.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Biotechnology Process Engineering Center:
- Support the emerging biotechnology and established chemical processing and pharmaceutical industries through advances in research and training need for the utilization of biotechnology;
- Establish an Industrial Advisory Board of senior managers from the chemical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology industries to advise on current future research and education activities and serve as a catalyst for collaboration;
- Establish the Industrial Biotechnology Liaison Program to identify future opportunities for collaboration in research and encourage facility and laboratory sharing across sectors;
- Education and training program for industry through short courses, lectures, degree and non-degree programs.
Purdue University, Center for Intelligent Manufacturing Systems, represented an expansion and redirection of the Center for Computer Integrated Design, Manufacturing, and Automation Center (CIDMAC):
- The CIDMAC industrial collaboration program will be expanded to include more members
- Members will be required to financially support the ERC and provide a technically oriented site representative who will participate in day-to-day activities
- Each member company will have a representative on the Policy Advisory Committee and the Technical Advisory Committee, representing not just the interests of their firms but also those of the U.S. manufacturing industry as a whole;
- Affiliates will receive newsletters but not the above benefits.
These new ERCs’ industrial collaboration programs illustrate enthusiastic and well-reasoned responses to the Program’s challenge to develop a new culture at the interface of industry and their universities.
The announcement was written to challenge these new ERCs to enter this new territory at the interface of industry and universities, knowing that this was new territory that would require some years in practice to develop knowledge of best practices. The goal was to foster experimentation to explore various means to achieve strong industry/university partnerships. The Program provided minimal requirements, encouraged various approaches and monitored their progress, and further assessed industry’s needs. The plan was to let structured guidance evolve over time as reviews, evaluations, and discussions with industry determined effectiveness.
6-C(c) Developing Partnership Tools
i. Membership Agreements and Support
As the first competition was winding down and awards were about to be made, Preston and Mayfield began to structure how the industrial collaboration programs would operate in ERCs. The only model in NSF was the I/UCRC Program, which evolved from the Experimental R&D Incentives Program (ERDIP), begun in the early 1970s under the RANN Program. Of the three awards made by the ERDIP, the MIT Polymer Center was the most successful because it had sustained industrial support over time and achieved high levels of scientific and technical productivity.
The MIT center was developed and led by Nam Suh, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, who became the Assistant Director for Engineering at NSF in late 1984. ERDIP was transformed into the I/UCRC Program in the early 1980s and was transferred to Mayfield and Preston’s Office in 1985 as discussed above. There were two PDs with differing philosophies of how to manage industrial collaboration in the I/UCRC Program at that time. Bob Colton had a more laissez-faire approach, opening the door to industrial involvement but not requiring financial support or commitment. Alex Schwarzkopf had a more structured approach, requiring minimum levels of financial support and an Industrial Advisory Board whose members had the opportunity to vote on the quality of proposed projects based on their judgment of the projects’ merit and relevance to their firm’s needs. Preston and Mayfield, in consultation with Nam Suh, decided that the more structured approach would be a more effective model for these centers, and Schwarzkopf was designated as the leader of the I/UCRC Program.
The I/UCRC approach involved a standard membership agreement—a legal document signed by the university official and an official of a member firm, which specified membership requirements, membership fees, length and terms of commitment, the role and rights of the Industrial Advisory Board, publication policy, and intellectual property policy. Schwarzkopf offered to allow the ERC Program to use the I/UCRC agreement, but Preston and Mayfield decided that they should let each new ERC have more leeway in determining an agreement that best fit their research, intellectual property, and industry collaboration culture, given the field of the ERC and the basic ERC Program requirements for industrial collaboration. This approach produced a broad spectrum of agreements that were honed down over time to yield a set of guiding principles for an ERC agreement. The first of these was published in the first ERC Best Practices Manual in 1996, which will be discussed later in this chapter.
The ERC Program never set a minimum level of industrial financial support for an ERC, so as to enable ERCs in emerging fields with larger numbers of small firms to compete and sustain NSF support. The sufficiency of support levels was left up to the site visit review teams, as Preston and Mayfield surmised that the reviewers would best understand the industrial readiness and ability to support academic research in their fields. Most agreements specified the level of membership, the fee for that level, and the benefits and obligations of members at that level.
By the start of 1988, there were 13 centers funded but the funding for the 14th, the Center for Emerging Cardiovascular Technologies at Duke, was delayed due to a request by the NSF Director that the NIH join NSF in funding this biomedical engineering ERC. These centers evolved fee structures for industrial affiliation, which provided substantial amounts of financial support. Some were charging a flat fee of between $30,000 and $50,000, which entitled the firm to a seat on the Industrial Advisory Board, involvement in the research, and early access to findings. But most ERCs had tiered membership structures through which annual dues of $100,000 to $200,000 entitled participants to board membership, placement of technical personnel in residence, and joint projects, which could lead to early access to findings. These centers had “affiliates” who paid fees in the range of $25,000 to $50,000, receiving a lower level of access and having somewhat less direct influence on programs. Affiliates at the lowest level might pay from $2,000 to $10,000 annually for publications, attendance at various meetings and workshops, and access to special briefings. This lower level enabled some small R&D firms to interact with the centers but was still too expensive for many. (See Section 6-C(d)ii for further discussion.)
Industrial funds coming through the membership agreements were used with other income to support core center research and operations and to purchase and maintain equipment. These were considered unrestricted funds. In addition, an even larger pool of industrial funds was restricted, i.e., directed by the donor to a particular principal investigator and/or research project, which might also include an education project.
Given these modes of support, by 1989, 50 percent of total funding for the ERCs was coming from industry (21% unrestricted and 29% restricted). This industrial funding amounted to $47.63M of total support and represented a substantially larger share than NSF itself contributed. NSF’s share was 34 percent.
Foreign firms were not prohibited from participating in ERCs. ERC Directors generally agreed that quid pro quo—the two-way street—was essential. Preston remembers that Daniel I.C. Wang told her that the quid pro quo provision was a disincentive to Japanese firms from participating in BPEC. He said: “They had big pocketbooks and ‘big ears’ but did not want to allow ERC researchers to visit their firms’ laboratories, so no Japanese firms joined in those early years.” This conversation led her to work with Marshall Lih, the Division Director at that time, to develop a policy regarding foreign firm involvement. There was no NSF-wide policy at the time and the Office of the General Counsel advised them to develop their own policy for the ERC Program. As a result, the guidance from the ERC program regarding foreign firm membership was as follows:
- “Each center and its leadership and advisory committee are free to decide on their own whether to let foreign companies join.
- NSF encourages quid pro quo between the ERC and both foreign and domestic firms.
- All foreign company participation must provide intellectual and human resources exchange in addition to financial contributions.
- NSF expects all companies associated with the centers (U.S. as well as foreign) to have an ‘open door’ policy toward the center’s students and faculty.”
By 1991, some 13 percent of all industrial sponsors of ERCs (about 50 firms) were foreign.
Fritz Prinz, the Director of CMU’s Engineering Design Research Center (EDRC), recalled a workshop entitled, ‘The Yen for Research,” the consensus of which was that: “…it might be very attractive to get foreign companies involved, as long as you don’t get just money—as long as we get from them at least as much technology as they get from us.”
Prinz described an EDRC initiative entitled the “International Manufacturing Program,” under which ERC students from CMU were sent to the University of Aachen, West Germany, to study for a semester and gain hands-on experience in German manufacturing plants. “Such proactive approaches are undoubtedly the best antidote to any ill effects of foreign participation in American university research,” he said. He went on to say: “I think the best way to gain insight into technology that is being created abroad—which is as important for us as it is for foreign companies to acquire our technologies—is to send American students abroad.”
ii. Industrial Advisory Boards
As the Program began operation in its first three years, the Industrial Advisory Boards (IAB) served as the key tool to focus industrial collaboration and establish communication between industry and the ERCs and between industry and NSF. These boards were required by the cooperative agreements. Just how they operated depended upon the ERC’s membership agreement, and the feedback from industry and the NSF site visit teams. Some ERCs already had a strong culture of interaction with industry or fully understood the role that industry had to play in the ERC for it to be successful. They were able to develop effective IABs early in their start-up years. For others that were not so ready, it took longer.
The structure of the IABs tended to be focused on engaging as IAB members a few industry representatives from the firms that paid the most to the ERC, rather than from all member firms. This narrow approach broadened in the second generation of ERCs. A study by the General Accounting Office (GAO), discussed in full in Section 6-C(d)i, indicated that IAB members had a stronger impact on the research agenda than industry participants who had not yet joined the IAB. The sample population for that study was the 14 ERCs funded in 1987. Even with the IAB requirement and the encouragement from NSF that members join the IAB, by 1987 among the first three classes the GAO found that two of the Class of 1987 (Duke and Colorado) had not yet established their IABs and the third ERC, at Illinois, did not provide a list of members. Therefore, the survey was sent to 203 industry participants of 11 ERCs and it received 168 responses, an 83 percent response rate.
Early on, the ERCs and their members realized that they would need two meetings of the IABs during the year. One IAB meeting was designed to focus on the ERC site visit, during which the ERC team presented briefings on research, education, industrial collaboration, and management and financial support; and it also included a private meeting of the IAB with the site visit team. At the second IAB meeting, without NSF staff present, the focus was on the ERC’s research and other activities, including a dialogue between the members and the ERC’s faculty and students, as well as the ERC’s leadership team. In addition, there was project-level communication throughout the year, which was good for the faculty, students, and industry personnel alike. This communication often served as a way for members to judge the readiness of students for industry and was a good recruiting tool.
In the early years of the Duke ERC many of the members were suing each other over intellectual property and other issues. The Director, Professor Theo Pilkington, had to devise another way to carry out industrial interaction other than through a typical ERC IAB, because the firms could not sit at the same table to provide guidance on research projects. The solution was an Education Advisory Board (EAB). This worked for several years until the legal issues were resolved and the Chair of the EAB asked Preston to enable them to function as a regular ERC IAB.
| CASE STUDY |
Professor Sung-Mo (Steve) Kang, the Associate Director of the Center for Compound Semiconductor Microelectronics at the University of Illinois, described his center’s iSMILE (Illinois Simulator for Modeling of Integrated-circuit Level Elements) project and the transfer of the resulting technology to industry. iSMILE is a CAD tool designed to facilitate closer interactions and R&D collaborations among systems and device researchers. It was developed by the ERC’s researchers but during its development, they took a strong approach to technology transfer by visiting and installing the software at industrial site, benchmarking against the difficult examples pointed to by industry, providing user education, seeking industrial feedback, and providing continual support for users. At that time (1991) industrial laboratories in nine large companies were using iSMILE for their development of optoelectronic circuits and systems. Kang said that the main features of the project that made it successful were:
iii. Joint Research Projects
All ERCs conducted some joint research with industry. The intensity of the interaction varied by center, involving frequent feedback on progress and direction of a research project, often including direct participation of industry personnel onsite at the ERC, or it might have extended to use of industrial test and development facilities by a university/industry team. These joint projects were one of the means for technology transfer.
iv. Intellectual Property
There was some initial concern that intellectual property rights would be a sticking point in establishing good university/industry relations. However, the GAO survey of industry referenced above put some of that concern to rest, as 72 percent of the 95 respondents said that interest in patentable products was not a reason for joining an ERC. NSF gave all patent rights to the university, freeing up the centers to devise whatever arrangement their management and sponsors agreed upon. Most offered a royalty-free, non-exclusive license to their major sponsors, with less advantageous arrangements for lower-level members. Payment of royalties was also determined through negotiations between the center and its university administration. Most arrangements shared the royalties between the university, the inventor, and in some cases with the inventor’s department or in a few cases the center. This was framed by the Bayh-Dole Act (1980) and the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act (1980), which were designed to remove a variety of institutional disincentives (e.g. patent rights, and anti-trust penalties) to public-private partnerships.
v. Industrial Liaison Officers
At the start-up of the ERC Program, the Directors of the first two classes of ERCs thought they could manage their ERC’s research and industrial collaboration programs without much assistance. John Baras, the Director of the Systems Research Center at the University of Maryland/Harvard University, understood at the proposal stage that he would need assistance and he created an Industrial Liaison Office within the ERC to manage a program of industrial collaboration; but as events transpired early on, this person served initially as an Executive Officer.
In 1988, John Fisher came to the ERC Program’s Annual Meeting and explained that he felt he could no longer effectively manage both the ERC and industrial collaboration. Late in 1987, he had decided to hire someone who knew his industrial community and also understood academic research. He needed that person to serve as the Industrial Liaison Officer (ILO)—marketing the ERC to industry, hosting interested firms on campus and introducing them to the ERC’s research and research team, negotiating terms of membership for each firm, and working with the university administration on issues of membership and intellectual property. He had hired William (Bill) Michalerya into that role in January 1988 and he brought Bill to the fall 1988 ERC Annual Meeting. Preston remembers that John and Bill gave a powerful talk about the role that Bill played in the ERC and his effectiveness in building the industrial collaboration program of the ERC so the director could focus on its research and education programs, building its new facility, and managing the ERC.
Lehigh’s creation of a new type of staff in ERCs, the ILO, was such a powerful example of how additional staff could benefit an ERC that Preston decided to make it a new requirement that all ERCs have an ILO. This is an example of her leadership style—challenging the ERCs with the Program’s key features and then letting them experiment with how best to address them. Using the sharing culture set up through the ERC Annual Meetings and the results of the annual reviews, she was able to determine creative and effective ways of addressing the features, some of which she implemented as new terms in the cooperative agreement and added to the performance criteria, and others she let stand as illustrative of best practices among the ERCs leaders who attended the meetings. By the next decade, these began to be shared more broadly through the ERC Best Practices Manual, first published online in 1996.
vi. Industrial Role in Site Visits
During the on-site annual reviews in 1986 and 1987, NSF staff and the site visit team members met privately with representatives of the members of the IAB to discuss how effectively the partnership was progressing. They probed such issues as: the impact of the members on the ERC’s research agenda, real-time collaboration in research, opportunities for industry members to spend longer periods of time at the ERCs and vice versa for the faculty to visit industry labs, the quality of the ERC students and their understanding of industrial practice, issues in leadership and management, etc. These sessions evolved into discussions of joint “investors” in the ERC with the aim of ferreting out weaknesses in order to strengthen the center.
As discussed in the Research chapter, section 5-A(d), during the annual visits in 1986 the industrial members voiced concerns about their ability to impact the research agenda of their ERC. They and NSF also voiced concerns that some of the ERCs resembled collections of single-investigator projects under an ERC umbrella. This was a serious enough threat to the success of each ERC and the Program as a whole that Preston moved very quickly to address it. After discussions with Pete Mayfield and Nam Suh, she called a meeting with representative firms at NSF in February 1987 to address this threat. The outcome of the meeting pointed to the need for ERCs to function with strategic research plans. This became a new requirement—ERCs were required to prepare annual strategic research plans under revised terms of their cooperative agreements, which were implemented in March 1987. See the discussion of early attempts to address this requirement in the Research Chapter.
This is but one example of how the partnership between the ERC Program and industry functioned to strengthen the ERC program.
6-C(d) Early Input from Evaluations and Studies
i. 1988 General Accounting Office Evaluation of the ERC Program
Evaluation started early. Two years after the beginning of operation of the Program, in 1987, at the request of Congress, the General Accounting Office (GAO) began evaluating the start-up effectiveness of the ERC Program. The GAO analysts carried out a survey of industrial participants in ERCs to assess the state of the university/industry partnership in ERCs at that time. They structured the survey to focus on three issues: (1) what motivates a company to participate in an ERC and whether the company anticipates continuing its participation, (2) how companies interact with ERCs, and (3) how technology is transferred from the ERC to the industry sponsors. They also surveyed the ERC Directors to determine whether they were aware of industry expectations.
The sample population for the survey included the ERCs in the Classes of 1985, 1986, and 1987—13 of the 14 ERCs then awarded, as the Duke ERC was delayed in funding. Of these 13, the ERC at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Class of 1987) did not provide data, as its membership program was not yet developed, and the ERC at the University of Illinois (Class of 1986) did not respond. The survey was sent to the industry representatives from 203 member companies of the 11 ERCs and 168, or 83 percent, responded. It was also sent to the Directors of those ERCs. Table 6-1 presents a summary of the results from questions 1 and 2 posed to industry. Results for question 3 (technology transfer) were inconclusive since there had been insufficient time to transfer results to industry at the time the survey was carried out.
Table 6-1: Results of GAO Survey of ERC Industry Members in Classes of 1985–1987 ERCs.
|Reason for Involvement||% Industry Cited Reason as Extremely to Very Important||% Industry Cited Reason as Moderately to Somewhat Important|
|Research Matches Company Interests||88.7%||7.2%|
|Opportunity for Joint Research||44.0%||47.6%|
|Opportunity for Cross-Disciplinary Research||46.5%||43.0%|
|Access to Research Results||72.6%||23.9%|
|Access to Up-to-Date Knowledge in Field||74.8%||23.9%|
|Expected Continued Support for ERC||% Definitely Yes||% Probably Yes|
|Intent to Continue Support One Year Ahead||56.5%||28.6%|
|Intent to Continue Support Four Years Ahead||9.5%||31.0|
|Student Preparation for Industry||% Much Better than Traditional||% Somewhat Better than Traditional|
|Students have better knowledge of state-of-the-art equipment||27.3%||57.6%|
|Students have knowledge specific to company interests||39.4%||48.5%|
|Capacity for Systems Thinking||30.3%||30.3%|
|Ability to Work in Company’s Environment||36.4%||42.4%|
|Impact on Research Agenda||% Moderate to Very Great|
|Impact on Research Agenda if an IAB Member (84)||57%|
|Impact on Research Agenda if not an IAB Member (77)||21%|
From these results and others, the GAO found that the ERC Program was well received by industry. Participants intended to continue support the ERCs, and the centers reported that most companies were able to keep their financial commitment. A majority of the participants believed that the quality and type of research were the most important reasons for sponsoring ERCs. Interaction between university and industry research personnel had increased since the ERCs were established, although direct collaboration on research projects was limited. Participants expected to receive the most benefit from their participation through improvement of their current personnel, better personnel recruitment, and improved research projects. It was too early to hire ERC graduates and to tell what impact the ERC program would have on technology transfer. The ERCs were encouraged to include more small businesses as members and treat them like large businesses in terms of access. The major concern was their ability to impact their ERC’s research agenda. 
From this study, the Program leaders determined that building a sound culture of industrial collaboration was underway in most ERCs but there was work to be done to increase the role of industry in the structure and course of the research agenda.
ii. Other Studies
Smaller Business Involvement in Centers: In 1987, Congress asked Erich Bloch, the Director of NSF, to carry out a study of knowledge and technology transfer to industry in NSF-supported centers and laboratories, with emphasis on medium and small businesses and to report on what can be done in the future to enhance such transfer activity. He asked Preston to lead an NSF Task Force on Technology Transfer to gather information and prepare a report to Congress, with the assistance of Ronald G. Havelock, a consultant and writer. The sample population for the study was the ongoing 14 ERCs, the ongoing 39 I/UCRCs, the 9 Materials Research Laboratories (MRL), plus the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the Supercomputer centers, and three astronomy facilities. There was a mandate for the ERCs and I/UCRCs to form industrial collaboration programs but there was no such expectation for the other organizations studied.
The findings pointed to the ERCs having the most active involvement of smaller firms, and some significant connections with small firms took place in the MRLs as well. The report pointed out that:
Some subjects such as biotechnology lend themselves to small business opportunities more readily than others. The further centers proceed toward the applied end of the research-development continuum, the more potential there will be for transfers, especially to small firms. Involvement of NSF centers with smaller businesses takes place in five categories:  direct affiliations,  information sharing and educational activities,  joint projects,  involvement through third parties acting as mediators, and  special arrangements.
The report pointed to large fee requirements as a deterrent to small firm involvement. Since I/UCRCs depend on industry fees as a major source of support, “they are therefore understandably reluctant to grant full participation to any firms at reduced rates.” ERCs, on the other hand, were more open to developing tiers of membership with alternative fee arrangements; but for most these fees, $25,000 to $50,000, were too high for the smaller firms. Nevertheless, some ERCs arranged for substantially lower fees in the $2,000 to 10,000 range for small business membership. For example, the Ohio State ERC charged $2,000 annually, which gave these firms access to programs and publications but no affiliate voting rights, resulting in half of their 21 firms being classified as small and medium-sized firms.
To support this study, the ERC Program began collecting data specifically focused on the involvement of industry by size of the firms—small (using the Small Business Administration definition of less than 500 employees and less than $5M in sales), Mid-Size, and Large (Fortune 500 size). By January 1989, 22 percent of the 359 firms involved in the 14 ERCs in the Classes of 1985-1987 were small R&D firms. Because of its focus on the biotechnology industry, the MIT ERC had the most small- and medium-sized firms (35 and 13), accounting for 66 percent of its total membership of 73 firms. That placed MIT at the top of the ERCs in terms of the total number of firms of all sizes. The Lehigh and Ohio State ERCs were the next in line in terms of involvement of smaller firms, with 10 small firms each and 6 and 1 medium-sized firms, respectively.
The findings of this study, released in 1988, point to the following mechanisms in place across the spectrum of the ERCs funded between 1985 and 1987 to support industrial collaboration:
- Industrial commitment to and provision of financial support; (page 9)
- Membership on Industrial Advisory Boards for larger contributors with an opportunity to steer the research program into areas of highest interest to the member firms and the ability to monitor the results through to the proof-of-concept phase; (page 13)
- Opportunity to work with students and influence their knowledge of industrial practice and have a “window on talent”; (page 13)
- Affiliate membership providing early access to results but not an advisory role; (page 12)
- Opportunities for industrial fellows in ERCs; (page 9)
- Visitor programs for faculty to industry; (page 9)
- Collaboration in research to lead to technology transfer (10 of the 14 ERCs); (pages 11 and 17)
- Open Conferences and workshops where non-members can attend (MIT-500 individuals from 150 firms, Maryland -100 persons from, 40 companies); (page 16)
- Newsletters, some distributed to affiliates and others, which can be small firms (MIT- 50 percent of its mailing list, Ohio State 40 percent, and Maryland 25 percent; (page 14)
- Visits by small business technical personnel ( Purdue 500 individuals from 200 firms, MIT-150 visitors from 60 firms) (page 16)
- Linkages to state and local economic development organizations but with minimal impact; (page 18)
- Industrial Liaison Officers or Technology Transfer Officers in the ERC (9 of the 14) (page 21).
6-C(e) Outcomes and Impacts
i. Support and Memberships
The ERC Program was designed to have leveraged support from academe, industry, and state governments to reflect a buy-in from the government, industry, and academic partners. During this first generation, there was remarkable involvement and support from industry, as is evident from the information presented above. This contributed to a positive impact on firms and ERC graduates as they moved into the workforce.
The involvement of firms in ERCs grew from 110 in the 6 ERCs reporting in 1986 (18 per ERC) to 541 (30 per ERC) in the 18 ERCs reporting in 1991, nearly a five-fold increase in involvement in five years. Of total ERC budgets of $37.4M in 1986, industry support (unrestricted funds only) was $11.6M (31%) and by 1991 it grew to $41M but remained at 31% of ERC total budgets of $130.77M. While still 31 percent, the level of total support increased four-fold in dollar terms.
ii. Changing Cultures and Lessons Learned
1. Changing cultures – the NSF partnerships with industry and academe
In terms of cultural drivers, the university/industry/government partnership was characterized as a three-body collision, as Figure 6-1 depicts.
Figure 6-1. Cultural Differences Among Three Sectors Involved in ERCs
During the 1980s, industry and academia had become more accustomed to collaborating together and NSF as a whole had settled in to a culture of acceptance and encouragement of these types of partnerships. This acceptance came from the successes of the ERC and I/UCRC programs in forming productive industry/university/government partnerships that paved the way for NSF’s increased focus on university/industry collaboration in the late 1980 and early 1990s. The Science and Technology Centers Program, begun in 1987 at the request of Erich Bloch, was designed to focus on longer-term more basic research with technological horizons and to link to industry. The other NSF programs where university/ industry collaboration began to be fostered more actively by the late 1980s and early 1990s were the four Supercomputer Centers, begun in 1984; the Materials Research Laboratories, begun in the 1960s, which proved more and more attractive to industry throughout the 1980s; the Minority Research Centers of Excellence, begun in 1987, which promoted internships in industry and industrial mentors for minority students underrepresented in engineering and science; the National Center for Atmospheric Research, established in 1960, promoted a mission of technology transfer to government agencies and industry during the 1980s and beyond; and the State I/UCRC Program, begun in 1991, which promoted partnerships with state and local governments and industry at the local level.
2. Lessons learned – 1991 ERC symposium
In 1991,NSF held a symposium to explore the successes and challenges facing the first generation of ERCs. During the sessions dealing with university industry collaboration, general rules of thumb or lessons learned emerged regarding conditions that make for a successful interaction between the two sectors: Steve Kang, from the University of Illinois ERC, cited the following:
- “Industry must have a genuine need and an interest in addressing it.
- The ERC must have an accurate assessment of the industrial need and a good understanding of the associated research problems.
- The ERC management and other ERC researchers must support the effort.
- Relevant industrial experience on the part of the ERC research team is beneficial.
- The ERC must take an aggressive approach to technology transfer.”
An industrial sponsor, Stuart Brodsky, of Contel Technology Center and a member of the University of Maryland ERC, said: “It is very important for each party to know what it is they want out of the relationship and to be very clear—to put it on the table and say, ‘This is what my expectation is in terms of what we are going to get out of this relationship.’ Both parties should have something to gain from the relationship.”
Doug Smoot, the Director of the BYU ERC, advised that:
- “The ERC can expect to gain advice, financial support, research ideas, and new technology.
- Industry can expect to gain new technology, leverage on their research funds, new ideas, an opening to new products, and prospective employees.”
Roger Wildt, of Bethlehem Steel and a member of the Lehigh ERC, observed that, “You’re always going to find somebody in industry who insists on profit with the next quarter. Live with it. Rather than propose a grandiose five-year project, prepare a five-year program that is divided into shorter milestones so that the sponsoring organization can feel a level of comfort at each milestone, and not have to just sit with their fingers crossed until the entire project is completed.”
Casimir Skrzypczak, from NYNEX and a member of the Columbia ERC, said: “…develop membership options that allow a company to become involved for 1-2 years at a reduced fee, so that they can see at close range what benefits the center might offer them. The lessons learned to minimize the friction in this three-body collision and promote a positive outcome for all partners were recognized for academia as:
- Cultural differences: Outcome measures for faculty in academia are more focused on publishing papers. NSF and industry understand that must be augmented with an additional focus on addressing real problems and needs and they view ERC outcomes as knowledge (papers), technology (testbeds, technology transfer, patents), and industry-ready graduates as outcome measures for ERCs.
- Maintaining a substantial interaction. Interaction across the sectors is critical/ ERCs can be characterized as a body contact “sport” where the dynamics of the “collisions” of the three bodies are designed to produce a sum of effort and impact greater than the three players could achieve alone.
- Research strategy. It is critical to success to establish an effective research plan or strategy focused on systems technology, crucial barriers in the way of realization, and a good mix of short-term and long-term project and industry collaboration.
- Technology transfer. Academics, in collaboration with industry, must carefully consider what technology they expect to transfer, at what stage it will be, and when and how to do it.
- Collaboration. To be successful, industry must be willing to spend considerable time at the universities with students and professors. Merely sending money and waiting for reports yields very unsatisfactory outcomes for industry.
- Outcomes so far. The results of collaboration depend on both parties having realistic expectations and understanding of each other’s needs. One of the most outstanding results of the ERCs to date has been the impact on the students.
- Technologies and utility for products. ERCs are doing a good job with respect to scientific discovery and technological advancement, but in the area of market and economic opportunity more needs to be learned. The new technologies may be too complex and therefore not readily usable, which is not necessarily a negative, as product development is not the role of an ERC.
- Ultimate success. The long-term success of the ERC Program will be achieved not through center-by-center impacts but through whether or not the culture changes in education and research expands far beyond the ERCs themselves. Will it become the basis for the way universities think about how they should structure their education and research programs? (The outcome of an evaluation of the impacts of ERCs on their home universities pointed to that impact.)
6-D Strengthening the Model in Gen-2: 1994-2000
6-D(a) Changing Culture in Academe and Industry
The Gen-1 period had been a time of experimentation, choosing the best ERCs for the time, challenging them to develop strong partnerships with industry, and letting a “thousand flowers bloom” to determine which ones bore the best fruits of a strong university/industry partnership. The goal of the Gen-2 period was to determine how best to manage the second generation of industrial collaboration programs so the newer ERCs did not have to invent their own approaches without understanding what types of programs and interactions produced the best results. Thus began several years of improving guidance for ERC industrial collaboration through interaction with the ERC Directors and their ILOs and industrial advisors.
The following characterizes the economic climate by the mid-1990s in comparison to the mid-1980s:
The nation’s economic climate had changed considerably since the first ERCs were funded ten years earlier, such that the ability of the United States to compete internationally was no longer in serious doubt. Also, R&D activities in private firms had shifted in organizational locus and in emphasis, and both universities and private firms had learned a great deal about how to collaborate effectively in research. All these changes, plus others reflecting some changes in the ERC Program, meant that the ERCs initiated in the mid-and late 1990s began operating in a very different context from that of their earlier counterparts.
This was the cultural and economic climate facing the ERCs and NSF during the Gen-2 period of honing the ERC partnerships with industry. This stage involved strengthening the role of the ILOs and finding new ways to gain feedback from IABs. The overall approach was dialogue and evaluation to foster a culture of continuous improvement. All these approaches culminated in a chapter on best practices for industrial collaboration in the first ERC Best Practices Manual, published online in 1996.
6-D(b) Augmented Role of the Industrial Liaison Officers
As a result of increasing dialogue among the ERCs and between NSF and the ERCs and their IABs at the site visits and at the ERC Annual Meetings, it became increasingly apparent that an ERC with an effective ILO who was responsible for marketing the ERC to industry and managing collaboration and technology transfer was in a position to have a much more successful partnership with industry than an ERC that didn’t understand the importance of this role. As a result, having a member of the ERC leadership team who was responsible for these functions became a requirement in the ERC Program solicitations/announcements starting in 1993. This solicitation produced the first cohort of the second generation of ERCs, the Class of 1994-95.
The ILOs collaborated together to share their successes and challenges at each ERC Annual Meeting; and by 2003, Carl Rust, who was the Associate Director of the Packaging Research Center at Georgia Tech and the ERC’s ILO, presented a description of the role of the ILO to the Plenary Session of that meeting. He pointed out the wide range of duties of an ILO that he had gathered from a survey of the ongoing ERCs at that time. These are shown in Figure 6-2. That wide range of duties is indicative of the leeway that each ERC had in the way it fulfilled the Program requirements. From these he distilled the best practices for an ILO, shown in Figure 6-3. These best practices were provided as guidance to new and ongoing ERCs about the range of responsibilities that would produce a very effective industrial collaboration program.
Figure 6-2: ILO Responsibilities (Source: Carl Rust)
6-D(c) Augmented Role of Industry in Analyzing the Strength of an ERC: SWOT
Preston and her team of PDs had been observing that IAB members were quick to praise an ERC during their private meetings with an ERC’s site visit team. On the other hand, they were not always forthcoming about weaknesses they perceived in the operation of an ERC or in its industrial collaboration program. When she attended the first annual review of the new Packaging Research Center at Georgia Tech in the Spring of 1996, the brand-new IAB asked if they could make a presentation to her and the site visit team. The presentation was a SWOT analysis of that start-up ERC. This was an analysis of the ERC’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (external). By that time, the SWOT analysis had become a management tool in industry. To Preston, this approach looked like it was the answer to the need to gain industrial input on both the strengths and weaknesses of an ERC. However, she changed the focus of threats to include internal threats as well—i.e., management issues that if not addressed could threaten the survival of the ERC.
Figure 6-3: ILO Best Practices (Source: Carl Rust)
She discussed its use with the ERC PD team and they agreed it would be valuable, as they had the same concerns. Then she discussed using the SWOT analysis as a management tool with Marshall Lih, the Division Director at that time. Coming from an Asian culture with a less confrontational style, he was disturbed by the use of the word threat. However, Preston argued that unless there was a strong word like threat, major weaknesses that really threatened the survival of the ERC might be overlooked or ignored by the faculty. She was looking for an analytical tool that would have the power to force an ERC team to face serious threats to its survival.
That argument prevailed and the SWOT analysis was added to the site visit format in 1997. This required the IAB to carry out a SWOT analysis of its ERC at one of its IAB meetings. Representatives of the IAB would then present it to the NSF site visit team for discussion. This produced a more frank discussion between the IAB members and the site visit team. It had the long-term effect of significantly strengthening the partnership between NSF and industry and their mutual desire to bring the ERC to its highest level of performance. She also required the Student Leadership Councils to carry out their own SWOT analysis of the ERC from their perspective (this will be discussed in the Education Chapter 7). Both SWOT analyses became requirements in the ERC cooperative agreement. See Section 6-D(h) below for an industry assessment of the process.
6-D(d) Program Requirements through Cooperative Agreements
By the end of the Gen-2 period, the cooperative agreements set the following program requirements for industrial/practitioner (local or federal government agencies) collaboration:
- Center-level Membership Agreement that governs
industrial participation and delineates:
- Fees and terms of membership and benefits and the role of non-member affiliates,
- Pooling of membership fees for allocation per strategic plan
- Additional funds for sponsored research projects, equipment donations, etc.
- Firms that provide support for sponsored research projects but have not joined the center may not be considered members
- Annual certification of industrial membership and support by university administrator by the lead university’s AOR
- Intellectual Property Policy, in accordance with NSF’s and their university’s policies
- industrial partnership meeting with committed and interested members within 60 days of start-up
- Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) of member firms meets twice a year to review progress and plans and provides input on the quality of the projects
- IAB SWOT analysis of the ERC’s performance, communicated to ERC leadership teams and NSF site visit team by personnel from selected member companies.
6-D(e) Membership Agreement Templates
Throughout the 1990s, the team of Industrial Liaison Officers grew and their mode of operation became more collaborative as a result of the ERC Annual Meetings. Four leaders of the team arose: Andrew Branca, Engineered Biomaterials ERC at the University of Washington; James MacBain, Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems ERC, University of Michigan; Carl Rust, Packaging Research Center at Georgia Tech; and Erik Sander, Particle Engineering Research Center at the University of Florida. One of their tasks was to share membership agreements and develop membership agreement guidelines for current and new ERCs. Samples of membership agreements from ongoing ERCs were posted on the ERC Association website: http://erc-assoc.org/content/membership-agreements-bylaws.
The guidelines can be summarized as follows:
- Develop the basic agreement, in collaboration with a few core members who helped develop the proposal, before starting to market the ERC to industry
- Involve the ERC’s leadership team and the university’s technology development officer
- Develop the fee and benefit structure and levels of membership
- Manage the basic issues up front without inserting too much detail, keep it flexible over time so issues that arise can be inserted later
- Remain flexible to negotiate terms with individual firms or groups of firms
- Develop the Intellectual Property Policy (IP) in
light of the industry the ERC is involved with, build in flexibility,
especially if a multi-university ERC; be sure to address:
- Bayh-Dole Act restrictions on ownership
- Protecting the core IP generated from the entire
ERC’s research by granting title to the university
- Members may have non-exclusive, royalty-free rights for in-house use of patentable inventions or copyrightable materials developed under the ERC for up to 90 days from disclosure,
- exclusive rights can be designated in separate sponsored research agreements
- Distribution of royalties among the inventor, university, home of the inventor (department or center), and industry.
6-D(f) Summary Industrial Collaboration Outcomes
In 1994, at the start of the second generation of the Program, Lynn Preston and Linda Parker, the ERC Program’s evaluation specialist, funded an assessment of ERC industry/university collaboration and its benefits and outcomes. The approach taken was to carry out extensive assessments of these partnerships to determine which ones were the strongest and could serve as the best models for current and future ERCs. It was a two-part study designed to determine how well the Program was meeting its goals to develop fruitful partnerships with considerable benefits to industry that also produced graduates who were more effective in industrial practice.
The goals of the first study of benefits to industry for involvement in ERCs were to: “(1) examine the patterns of interactions that have emerged between ERCs and industry, (2) determine which types of interaction were most useful to industry and brought firms the greatest benefits, and (3) assess the value of these to the companies.
The goals of the second study of the effectiveness ERC graduates in industry were to examine: “(1) the extent to which masters and doctoral graduates with substantial ERC experience are more effective than their peers: (2) what the graduates did while at an ERC; and (3) the impact of ERC activities on graduates’ effectiveness on the job.”
The first study was carried out by J. David Roessner and his team at the SRI Institute and the second by Stephen J. Fitzsimmons and his team at Abt Associates. Both studies used data collected by the ERC database in 1995 and early 1996 and they both developed survey instruments, which were approved by NSF and OMB. The ERCs provided the names and contact information for their industrial members and graduates. In addition, in 2001, Preston and Parker commissioned Roessner and his SRI team to do a follow-up survey to compare results between 1994/95 and 2001/02.
In the 1994 survey, the ERCs in the first cohort include the 18 centers funded in the Classes of 1985 through 1990. From these, SRI had a usable survey population of 497 firms and received 355 responses to its survey of ERC members and affiliates, a response rate of 71 percent. These firms reported that on average their firms had been associated with the ERC for about four years and nearly a third had been involved for five to seven years; 44.9 percent had newer partnerships that ranged from two to four years old. Patterns of involvement varied across firms and ERCs. Nearly 82 per cent of the respondents were the firm’s main point of contact, while more than 66 percent coordinated or helped to coordinate participation of their firm’s technical staff with the ERC. Nearly 33 percent were responsible directly for the budget that supported their ERC and slightly more than 33 percent were members of their ERC’s IAB. The 2004 survey compared results from the first cohort with those from the second cohort, the eight ERCs funded in the Classes of 1994/95 and 1996.
i. Effectiveness of ERC Graduates in Industry
The contract to Abt Associates, Inc., in 1994, was designed to assess the broader impact of an ERC experience on its graduates and their employers as they moved into the workplace. Abt surveyed ERC graduates (M.S. and Ph.D.) from the first generation of ERCs who were working in industry, academia, and Federal laboratories. The sample population included the 18 ERCs that had been funded between 1985 and 1990. They also surveyed the graduates’ supervisors. A total of 720 survey instruments were mailed to graduate alumni/ae of the ERCs, with a 60 percent (433) response rate. The responses were classified by sector (industry, 61% responding; academic, 56%; and other, 64%). These graduates voluntarily identified 554 supervisors and a total of 477 (86%) completed interviews. The findings “shed light on overall patterns and hint at certain cause-and-effect relationships.”
The results of the surveys of the ERC graduates are consistent with the hypothesis that ERC graduates demonstrate superior performance on the job compared to peers who were not affiliated with ERCs—high scores on both self-ratings and supervisors’ rating of job performance compared to peers across all sectors—but it cannot be ruled out that this result may be due to in part to their overall superiority as high-quality young professionals. In addition, insights from the graduates about the impact of an ERC experience showed that:
- 82 percent of graduates rated their ability to apply knowledge from different disciplines as better than their peers and more than half said that their ERC experience had a positive impact on this performance.
- Graduates who worked on ERC-sponsored prototyping (testbed) projects as students (64 per cent of the sample) believed they outperformed their peers on the job; 60 percent of doctoral graduates rated themselves as “much better than average” in their contributions to their company’s technical work, compared to 40 percent of ERC graduates who had not had this prototyping experience.
- 44 percent said they experienced a high or extremely high involvement in a systems approach to solving engineering problems as students, while 44 percent said there was a moderate involvement—for an overall 88 percent systems impact.
Surveys of the supervisors of ERC graduates produced evidence that the ERC experience did result in new employees who were more effective in industry and government laboratories. In addition, overall there was an improvement over time between the ERCs surveyed in 1994 (Gen-1) and those surveyed in 2001(some of Gen-2).
All of the features in Table 6-2 represent features of ERCs that are important to industry; ERC graduates in the first cohort performed from 53 to 80 percent better than single-investigator trained employees, and from 64 to 83 percent better in the second cohort. The most significant increase in performance, of 24 percent between the first and second cohorts, was the ability to work in interdisciplinary teams; secondly, ERC graduates in in the second cohort required 22 percent less training to become effective contributors to the firm; and thirdly, the ability to apply an engineered systems perspective rose by 17 percent between the two cohorts. The ability to work in interdisciplinary teams and have a systems perspective are the two most significant key features that distinguish ERCs from single-investigator laboratories and from other centers. Clearly, an ERC experience had significant payback for the firms who hired these graduates.
Table 6-2: Comparison of Performance of Center Graduates with Comparable non-Center Hires (1994/5 and 2001/2) 
ii. Benefits to Industry from ERC Membership
In the first survey, in 1994, the members and affiliates indicated a wide variety of important benefits to their firms from involvement in ERCs. These outcomes, shown in Table 6-3, validate the strength of the partnerships the first generation ERCs had developed with their industrial members and affiliates. The results show that access to know-how and their ERC’s faculty, students, and facilities had a significant impact on the competitiveness of their firms. The results also pointed to guidance for ongoing and future ERCs regarding how to strengthen these partnerships.
Table 6-3: Examples of Significant Benefits Received by ERC Firms
Companies received benefits in direct relation to the number of years they participated in an ERC and the extent of active involvement with the center: The longer a firm participated and the more direct personal interaction corporate and center personnel had, the more direct benefits the firm received and the greater the effect on a company’s competitiveness. Over 90 percent of industrial representatives from firms involved with an ERC for 8 to 10 years reported at least some benefit, with 47 percent reporting moderate benefit, and another 36 percent reporting a great deal of benefit. The lesson learned for ERC members is get in early and participate actively to receive the maximum benefit. Don’t sit on the side lines “testing the waters.”
Table 6-4 shows increasing benefits to ERCs from participation in the second cohort of ERCs, in comparison to the benefits accruing to industry from participation in the first cohort. The ERCs in the first cohort include the 18 centers funded in the Classes of 1985 through 1990 and those in the second include the 8 ERCs funded in the Classes of 1994/5 and 1996.
Table 6-4: Benefits from Participation in ERCs, 1994/95 and 2001/02
iii. Patents and Licenses and Other Industrially Relevant Output
Figure 6-5 shows the productivity of ERCs with respect to industrially relevant quantifiable outputs between FY 1985 and FY 2000. There were 562 inventions disclosed, 397 patent applications filed, and 330 patents awarded. Licenses for software were 512 and there were 50 spin-off firms created with 265 employees.
Figure 6-5: ERC Productivity
iv. Support and Memberships
By FY 2000, there were 439 memberships in 18 ERC from 326 firms. Small firms made up 25 percent of the firms, with 64 percent large firms. These firms provided $43.9M to these ERCs. As shown in Figure 6-6 and Figure 6-7, cash support to be used at the discretion of the ERC in support of research and education was $20M, or 47 percent. An additional $14.3M (32 percent) was provided for directed project support through industrial grants and contracts. Donated equipment was valued at $7M (16 percent). 
Figure 6-6: Industrial Support to ERCs in FY 2000
Figure 6-7 Distribution of Industrial Support, FY 2000
As shown in Figure 6-8, total support to these ERCs was $155.5 M, with all NSF support at $49,4 M (31.8%), industry support at $43.9 (28%), other federal support at $37.5 (24.1%), university support at $16.6M (10.7%), and state support at $8.1M (5.2%)
6-D(g) Pressure for Memberships and Support Stimulates Malfeasance
During this period, there was mounting pressure on the ERC Program and therefore on the ERCs for increasing leveraged support, especially from industry. As more and more ERCs faced both the third-and sixth-year renewals, they faced two pressures regarding industrial collaboration: expectations for increased support and greater depth of involvement. Most center directors found the pressure to have increasing memberships, stronger industrial collaboration, and increasing financial support a challenge and most understood that the site visit teams would be looking not just at numbers but at the quality of involvement.
Most handled that challenge with integrity, but two who probably were more focused on numbers, did not. One, the Director of the University of Wisconsin ERC, responded to the pressure of decreasing memberships and support by fabricating data. This was brought to Preston’s attention when she received a hand-written, unsigned communication from the staff of the ERC, which she turned to the NSF Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate. The outcome of the investigation resulted in the Director of the ERC pleading guilty to using false statements to obtain money from the United States Government, for which he was sentenced to three months in prison in 1998. Because of this, Preston worked with the staff of the OIG to strengthen the integrity of the data collection and reporting system and assure appropriate university oversight. The result was that the lists of members of an ERC, provided in annual reports and renewal proposals, had to be certified by a university official higher than the Dean of Engineering. This change was instituted early in 1999 and the ERC Directors and Administrative managers were informed and briefed at the following ERC Annual Meeting.
The second incident also involved industrial support and how it should be reported. Preston again received a hand-written, unsigned communication from someone at another ERC (which cannot be named because the inquiry and outcome were not made public by name by the OIG) that this ERC was not what it was reported to be in terms of industrial project-level support. Some industrial funds came into the ERC’s financial account as direct support while other industrial funds were designated as associated project funds. The ERC database guidelines were ambiguous as to the definition of associated projects and left vague the question of whether funds supported the ERC’s work closely enough. This particular ERC had used that ambiguity to exaggerate its industrial support.
To deal with this problem, Preston again worked with the staff of the OIG and the center directors to recast the reporting guidelines in a way that would be fair but clear. The new guidelines allowed reporting on associated projects that contributed directly to the ERC fulfilling its strategic goals and that were supported by industry or other agencies as an outcome of the ERC’s activities. Further, all associated projects project had to be described in the ERC ‘s Annual Report, to ensure transparency.
For more detail on these two incidents, see Chapter 9, Section 9-E(e).
6-D(h) Special Meeting Between NSF, Industry, and the ILOs
On January 21, 1999, the ERC Program held a meeting with the Chairs of the Industrial Advisory Boards of 15 of the ongoing ERCs. The purpose of the meeting was to gain the opinions of the IAB chairs on how to continue to evolve the structure and characteristics of ERCs. The NSF staff included Eugene Wong, the Assistant Director for Engineering; Marshall M. Lih, the Division Director; Lynn Preston, the Leader of the ERC Program; and the team of ERC PDs (including Cheryl Cathey, who assisted in the organization of the meeting), and ERC evaluation staff. The ERCs were represented by a team of Industrial Liaison Officers and the IAB Chairs. The team of ERC ILOs included Andrew Branca, University of Washington, Carl Rust, Georgia Tech, and Erik Sander, the University of Florida.
The summary of the topics posed and guidance given follows:
ERC Core Concept and Strategic Planning
- Is the ERC Program’s focus on next-generation
engineered systems still important from industry’s viewpoint?
- IAB representatives: “What else is there!?” However, working toward “intermediate subsystems, and medium-range outputs is increasingly important for ERCs. ERCs must keep a clear perspective on higher-level systems view and they must demonstrate proof-of-concept. That doesn’t mean ERCs develop product, the output has to be adaptable to many diverse needs. (Page 1)
- What is the view of the new three-level
strategic planning chart? (Page 2)
- Do all ERCs have to use it?
- Preston and Cathey: “The Program is still working with the chart. We want all ERCs to migrate towards the three-level strategic plan model that depicts how the engineered systems level of research drives and focuses fundamental and enabling technology research to achieve the systems-level deliverables.
- If your center has a better approach to achieve/depict the same goals, then use it.” (Page 2)
- Do all ERCs have to use it?
Industrial Benefits of ERC Membership
- Linda Parker summarized the results of recent evaluations of the benefits of membership and the productivity of ERC graduates, pointing to the most valued output being the ERC graduates. ERCs may be marketing their centers to industry too narrowly if they only focus on the research topics and technology goals.
- What aspects of the ERCs attract and retain
- IAB chairs responded that the ERCs need to work
at establishing themselves in the minds of the mid-and higher-level company
management as key organizations in the company’s own strategic plan
- IAB chairs should sell their ERC within the company at all levels.
- Center faculty should come to the company to give briefings.
- Faculty and students should be invited to company training sessions.
- IAB chairs responded that the ERCs need to work at establishing themselves in the minds of the mid-and higher-level company management as key organizations in the company’s own strategic plan
Oversight and Evaluation
- Does industry see the value of the SWOT
- IAB Chairs were positive about the value of the SWOT. They said it helped to crystalize the IAB’s grasp of how individual research thrusts fit into the whole fabric of the center. It is a useful vehicle for getting IAB involved more broadly in center management beyond the merely technical and it helps the companies converge as a group on what they are getting from the center vis-à-vis what they actually want to get. (Page 4)
- Is ’Threat” a good word for use in the SWOT?
- IAB representatives generally view this term as constructive. It demands attention and focuses the IABs on their responsibility to help the center survive. They just wanted to be assured that a weakness or a threat would not lead to “punishment” for the center by NSF. (Page 5)
- How well do university intellectual property
(IP) policies fit with industry’s needs?
- IAB Chairs thought ERCs should be able to have different IP policies from the university as a whole. IP policies in multi-university ERCs pose an even more serious problem. Participating universities must agree to a common policy. (Note that the ERC Program promoted this idea without much success.)
- The Bayh-Dole Act allows universities to retain title to any invention developed with the use of government funds. The question was asked whether ERCs should charge member companies royalties for center-developed technology. The consensus was that they should not.
- IP policy is an area that can benefit from information sharing on the erc-assoc.org website. (Page 9)
A day after this meeting, the ILOs met to discuss some lessons learned, best practices, and needs for improvement. Many of their issues and insights were contributions to the Industrial Collaboration chapter of the ERC Best Practices Manual, which was finalized after this meeting.
6-D(i) Industrial Collaboration “Best Practices” Manual
In the mid-1990s, Preston asked the leaders of the more mature ongoing ERCs to meet together to develop guidelines for effective leadership and management of an ERC. A consultant, Courtland Lewis, was engaged to assemble working groups of each major role in an ERC, consisting of selected representatives of those ERC staff, to draft a chapter on each major function, with Lewis as editor and project coordinator. The result was the “ERC Best Practices Manual,” with the first edition completed in late 1996. The document was posted, chapter by chapter, on the Web at the new website [http://erc-assoc.org] developed for ERCs to post their achievements and guidance and to present the ERC Program to the worldwide Web audience. The chapter on industrial collaboration covered the following topics:
- How to establish an Industrial Affiliate Program
- How to start-up industrial collaboration systems – membership structure and fees, rights, responsibilities
- The role of the Industrial Liaison/Technology Transfer Specialist
- Building an industrial constituency – attracting members, strategic planning for recruitment, involvement of large and small firms, input to strategic research planning, balancing short- and long-term research, involvement in education programs
- Benefits and difficulties of industrial involvement
- Interactions with NSF
- Post-graduation from NSF support and continue involvement and support from industry.
A few highlights of their observations and guidance are:
- ERCs develop a systems-focused collaboration with industry which begins at the early stages of strategic planning and idea creation and extends to technology development and application. By thus accelerating technology transfer and eventual commercial use, this approach represents a dramatic break with traditional forms of technology transfer, in which a single university researcher independently produces an interesting result and then passes it to industrial supporters, who independently evaluate, learn, and customize the work for internal use. (Page 5-1)
- Many of the hiring companies have noted that ERC graduates, by virtue of having been trained in a systems-oriented approach, are more capable at problem-solving than their non-ERC counterparts. They also are capable of integrating knowledge across disciplines, working in teams, understanding industrial needs, and addressing problems from an engineering systems perspective. Industrial sponsors typically comment that ERC students “land on their feet running” and “do not require the usual 12 to 18 months to come up to speed.” Many ERCs and their industrial members agree that students are the best and most lasting form of technology transfer. (Page 5-5)
- All ERCs expect industry to provide substantial financial support for the center. ERCs have annual memberships, with responsibilities and benefits governed by a membership agreement. Annual membership fees range from $2,000 to $250,000 for the various centers; usually there are two or three membership categories, with corresponding fees and benefits of membership. For small companies (often defined as <500 employees or <$30 million annual sales), fees are usually in the $2,000-$10,000 range, and may be graduated. Many centers allow larger firms to affiliate either in limited ways (by research area or by specific contractual projects), with annual fees typically ranging from $6,000-$30,000, or in a broader way (full membership with maximal rights), with fees usually ranging from $25,000-$100,000. Industry-specific differences are important in establishing a fee structure. (page 5-7)
- Intellectual property (IP) rights arrangements are influenced by the type of industry, by the university’s experience, and (it is to be hoped) by common sense. The membership structure should influence IP decisions. If all the center’s research activity is precompetitive and supported in common, shared rights for all members are appropriate. If the center has, in addition to generally supported research, special project support by a company, that arrangement should reflect that company’s unique contribution and rights. In most centers, IP is owned by the university and licenses are available to members. Access to licenses is based upon membership category, varying from royalty-free license to all center-developed IP to no access. (Page 5-8)
- Other IP issues that may be included in the agreement or dealt with on a case-by-case basis include: restrictions on licenses, who pays for and maintains patents, and royalty amounts. All centers work with their university intellectual property officers to comply with university standards on such matters. A good working relationship with the university IP administrators is important in developing a successful partnership with companies. If a center spans more than one university, clear agreement between academic partners is essential. Procedures for notifying members of the existence of center-developed IP should be clarified between the center and the university’s intellectual property officer. In all cases, IP agreements should accord with regular NSF guidelines, as set forth in NSF Grant Policy Manual 95-26. (Page 5-8)
- All centers have industrial advisory committees
or boards that serve such functions as:
- providing advice on developing the strategic plan
- reviewing overall progress against strategic goals;
- suggesting changes to the strategic plan, research, and education efforts;
- identifying areas for cooperation with industry or, in some cases, other institutions;
- discussing the strategic plan and suggest modifications based on research results;
- reviewing invention disclosures and suggest patent action;
- critiquing the progress and direction of each research project;
- providing resources the research program may need; and
- appointing industry speakers for workshops and seminars (Page 5-9).
6-D(j) Lessons Learned
The ERC experiment to join industry and academe in a fruitful partnership played out in “learn by doing” mode over the first five years of the Program (1985–1990), until some best practices could be formulated to guide these partnerships throughout the 1990s. The partnerships returned positive benefits for industry and ERC graduates and opened up new modes of collaboration for faculty that enabled long-term horizons with medium and short-term payoffs to industry.
For future programs embarking on developing or strengthening these partnerships, the successes of this decade pointed to the following lessons:
- Require membership governed by a membership agreement and a fee schedule by size of firm
- Put two nodes of leadership for the partnerships
in place at the proposal or start-up stage or as soon as possible for ongoing
- An Industrial Advisory Board comprised of representatives of member firms, with a Chair;
- An Industrial Liaison Officer, familiar with how industry can fund medium- to long-term research and with academic research culture
- Institute a SWOT process to manage IAB assessment of the center and communication to the center and its sponsors
- Assure that there is a strategic plan to structure the research program that guides the choice of projects by long-term systems testbeds, enabling technology testbeds, and needed long-term fundamental research
- Assure that the IAB provides input to but does not control the strategic research plan
- Provide an opportunity for collaborative research between faculty, students, and industry personnel to speed technology adaptation
- Keep the research relevant to industry interests, ensure that the ERC has a history of innovation, and that the member firms find value in learning of the latest trends and reviewing the latest research
- Infuse the student research experience with technology realization experiences and dialogue with industry personnel
- Develop intellectual property policies that facilitate collaboration and reward the inventor and the center as his/her locus, since the funding would have come from the center and not that person’s department.
New trends in the economy were becoming a challenge to the traditional model. By the end of this period there were indications that the roles of large and small firms in innovation based on high-risk/high-payoff research were shifting to small firms. Universities were also repositioning themselves, with increased focus on innovation and investment in innovation incubators for faculty- or postdoc-based start-ups.
6-E Transforming the Model for the 21st Century (Gen-2 & Gen 3): 2001–2014
6-E(a) Industrial Collaboration in the New Gen-2 ERCs (2000–2006)
There were 11 Gen-2 ERCs awarded between 2000 and 2006 that built their industrial collaboration programs on the best practices laid down by the earlier ERCs and their ILOs. They were focused on engineered systems in bioengineering and biomedical engineering, environmentally benign chemical processing, optoelectronic systems, pharmaceutical processing systems, energy conserving systems, storm prediction and emergency management, and sensing systems. There was sufficient experience in the ERC Program with industrial collaboration in sectors relevant to these systems as well as public sector response to natural hazards and emergency management to serve as a baseline for these centers and for NSF’s oversight systems.
6-E(b) The Changing Role of Industry in Innovation
By the late 1990s, there were continued indications, as was earlier observed, that industry was not heavily investing in long-term, high-risk research in its own laboratories and was investing less and less in long-term research in academia as well. Thus, the role of industrial research in exploring and proving a high-risk, potentially high-payoff new technology was increasingly assumed by small start-up R&D firms, some led by graduates and some with faculty involved as well. By the start of the new millennium, an entrepreneurial culture increasingly focused on innovation was beginning to emerge on campuses across the country and among ERC faculty as well. Data collected by Innovation Associates, Inc., provide the background for this analysis:
- Between FY 1998 and FY 2005, 3,641 new products based on academic inventions have been introduced to the market.
- In FY 2005, universities executed 4,201 licenses and options.
- Since FY 1980 universities and research institutions have launched 5,171 new companies; and in FY 2005 alone, 400 startups were launched.
- From FY 1996-2005, universities have more than quadrupled the total number of active licenses and almost doubled the number of licenses executed each year.
- From FY 1996-2005, universities have more than doubled the number of startups launched each year.
Reflecting on these changes and their impact on his ERC, Buddy Ratner, the Director of the Engineered Biomaterials ERC at the University of Washington, observed in 2004 that:
There was a time when many US companies had world-class basic research organizations. Discoveries were translated in-house to technologies and products. Consider transistors, the laser, nylon, Teflon and Kevlar as examples. As the corporate competitive climate intensified driven by expanding economies in other countries and by more profitable business models, major corporations condensed or dissolved basic research efforts in favor of short-term product development – it was widely appreciated that basic research is a poor investment (a low “hit rate”) that detracts from the bottom line. Companies that have substantially downsized basic research include AT&T, IBM, DuPont, Chevron, Xerox, GE, Baxter Medical and Dow Corning. Even technological research can be seen to increasingly focus on short-term product development.
This led to the additional observation that:
Largely, companies prefer not to license technology from Universities. They prefer to work with other companies where the practice of business is understood and confidentiality can be better protected. A commonly practiced mechanism for acquiring new ideas and new product lines is for a company to buy a start-up company that has already taken the risks of going from a smart idea, through a significant development phase to product finalization and approval. Two thoughts come to mind here. There must be increased focus on bridging what is often called “the black hole of technology commercialization,” this gap between a university smart idea and marketable product. Second, start-up companies are a potent mechanism to get ERC technology licensed, developed and into the market place.
The SRI evaluation of the benefits and impacts of ERC membership for industry and the roles of member firms in ERCs pointed to the following observations of the ERCs’ ILOs regarding interactions between ERCs and start-up based in ERC research or technology:
- ILOs interacted more frequently with faculty and student entrepreneurs intending to initiate a start-up than with start-up principals after the start-up begins to function outside university walls. In most cases, an ERC-based start-up originates with a faculty member or student working on ERC research. The ILOs work closely with their university’s technology licensing office to help the potential entrepreneurs obtain advice and support during the invention disclosure and patent application process.
- Companies formed on the basis of “raw” center-derived technology still require some research or research support to bring it to a commercialize state and this is often carried out through an active project partly or fully funded by the start-up.
- Start-ups rarely can afford to be members but
when they continue to interact with the ERC there is a synergy between the
member firms and the start-ups
- Member firms consider startups as sources of new technology through licensing, as potential partners, and as potential targets for acquisition; and
- Early and intimate “looks” at a new technology by member companies provides valuable insight into possible directions that their core technologies might take.
6-E(c) Experimentation with Translational Research with Small Firms
To address this shift in industry investment in research that was required to further prove a high-risk technology concept—especially in biological and biomedical engineering—the ERC Program began to support supplements to bioengineering ERCs to stimulate what was called translational research with small R&D firms. Translational research was defined as: “Research that explores issues involved in moving a technology from the proof-of-concept stage through the early phases of product development.”
Six awards were made between 2004 and 2007 to three ERCs in partnership with six small R&D firms:
- Four to UWEB for translational research
partnerships with start-up firms from 2004 through 2006 to:
- address bacterial colonization and biofilm formation in endotracheal tubing,
- address biocompatibiity of micro-devices,
- build scaffolds encapsulated with cells or bone marrow for large bone defect repair and bone regeneration, and
- develop electrospray technology for chemo-detection.
- One to the Georgia Institute of Technology/Emory University Tissue Engineering Center (GTEC) for joint prosthesis to bionically stabilize degenerative disc disease (2005).
- One to the Computer Integrated Surgical Systems and Technology ERC at Johns Hopkins University to augment the capabilities of Intuitive Surgical, Inc.’s da Vinci clinical surgical tool to allow researchers and physicians the option of programming more complex, specialized tasks.
The second approach was to solicit proposals for translational research partnerships from NSF-funded SBIR awardees in partnership with ERCs. These partnerships were jointly funded by the ERC Program and the SBIR Program in the Division of Industrial Innovations Programs (IIP). Dr. Peterson, the Assistant Director for Engineering, summarized these efforts as shown in Figure 6-9. As noted in Figure 6-9, at the start of this initiative these partnerships rarely served to advance the technology arising from ERCs; rather they were used to further the small business’s technology—i.e., they served as further technical assistance. The solicitation was modified over several years to enable ERC-generated small firms to compete along with SBIR Phase II awardees. This served the translational research motivation of the ERC Program but brought to light conflict-of-interest issues raised by the involvement of ERC faculty in these start-up firms. The program was cancelled with the arrival of a new division director, Theresa Maldonado, as she was not convinced of its utility.
6-E(d) Gen-3 Planning: The Role of Industry
As noted in Chapter 3. Section 3-C(a), The ERC Program’s Committee of Visitors (COV) challenged Preston to create a new construct for the Program that would sustain its productivity and impact on the country in order for it to be as effective in the decades to come as it had been in the last 20 years. While the Program had been continuously evolving in an incremental fashion to address the changing roles of industry and academia, the 2004 COV believed new ideas were needed. Preston accepted the challenge after discussions with the ERC PDs, the Division Director at the time, Gary Gabriel, and Mike Reischman, the Deputy Assistant Director for Engineering. There were many who said: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”; but she, Gabriel, and Reischman decided to explore a new construct and the planning process began in 2004. Between 2004 and 2007, planning discussions were informed by studies of how the U.S. should respond to global economic challenges (see Figure 6-10); the changing role of industry in the support of academic research and high-risk, high-payoff research; the lessons learned from supporting translational research and partnerships with small firms; the information gained from site visit discussions with industry members; and the data on industrial support and memberships. The planning process culminated in the release of the Gen-3 ERC Program Solicitation in November 2006, with preliminary proposals due May 3, 2007 and full proposals due December 10, 2007.
Figure 6-9: ERC-Small Business Partnerships
Building on the lessons learned from the interface of ERCs with the changing culture in industry, the new Gen-3 ERCs were again challenged to develop a culture that integrated discovery and innovation. The Gen-3 construct focused on a symbiotic relationship between academic researchers, small innovative firms, and larger industrial and practitioner partners. In addition, they were challenged to build bridges from science-based discovery to technological innovation by focusing on research needed to realize transforming engineered systems in partnership with small R&D firms.
Figure 6-10: Studies of Global Challenges to U.S. Competitiveness
Through this construct the Program was shifted from a culture of technology transfer into an innovation ecosystem culture. The Program undertook the responsibility to build new types of bridges between academia and industry to shorten the pathway to innovation. The image of translational research as a bridge across the “valley of death” for new technologies, as shown in Figure 6-11, was created by Deborah Jackson, who was later given the responsibility to manage the innovation ecosystem construct of the Gen-3 ERCs.
Regarding innovation, the original language in the first Gen-3 solicitation released in FY 2007 required Gen-3 ERCs to propose:
- A culture of innovation through direct involvement of small firms in the ERC’s research teams and partnerships with programs designed to support entrepreneurship and innovation;
- A strategically planned research program motivated by a transformational systems vision and the opportunity to explore innovations through collaborative research with small firms and proof-of-concept test beds;
- Partnerships with industry or practitioners dedicated to speeding the translation of ERC’s research into commercially viable products and developing students capable of innovation; and
- Partnership with academic, state, and local government, or other programs designed to stimulate entrepreneurship, and with start-up firms to speed the translation of academic knowledge into technological innovation.
Figure 6-11 and the language of the solicitation point to open collaboration within an ERC between faculty and personnel from small R&D firms engaged in research under the ERC’s strategic plan. There was also a requirement to partner with organizations outside industry designed to stimulation innovation. The plan was to “cover all bases” in the innovation spectrum through the Gen-3 ERCs.
6-E(e) Challenges in the Implementation of the Gen-3 Innovation Ecosystem Construct
It was understood that there might be some issues regarding intellectual property in that translational research space; but rather than specify the issues and the remedies up front before implementation, the Program chose to challenge the ERCs to begin to implement this concept and work with the Program to determine best practices. The solicitation had the following wording reflecting these challenges:
Guidance on effective …IP policies is available in the ERC Best Practices Manual …but some may not be appropriate given the new features of Gen-3 ERCs. It is advised that the IP policies be developed to facilitate these new roles and be flexible in recognizing IP jointly developed by faculty in different universities or that developed by joint industry and university research.
Figure 6-11: Gen-3 ERC Innovation Ecosystem
That challenge played out soon after the first Class of Gen-3 ERCs started up in 2008, when these new centers began to structure their research and industrial collaboration/innovation programs. To explore these challenges further, Preston met with officials of the Colorado State University (CSU) Office of Technological Innovation during the start-up meeting for the new Extreme Ultraviolet ERC at CSU and the University of Colorado, Boulder. CSU was experimenting with a new office to stimulate technological innovation through investments from the university and the state. The discussion opened up issues of how universities would handle the intellectual property involved in a translational research project funded by the ERC’s research program.
At the FY 2008 ERC Annual Meeting, the discussion of how to manage funding small firms to carry out translational research based on ERC research crystalized the need to provide a better set of guidelines to these new ERCs, as the IP space between a university, industry members, and small translational research firms was murky and potentially trouble-filled. In real time, after the session on translational research, Preston and Alex Huang, the Director of the new FREEDM ERC, began to draft out on a whiteboard a flowchart of the IP processes involved in enabling a small, non-member firm of an ERC to take up ERC-generated IP and further develop it into a product. Through this joint effort it became clear to both of them that there were issues involved regarding IP rights for the small firm vis-à-vis the university and industry members. In addition, there was a potential for faculty conflicts of interest (COI) if the small firm were to have faculty principles who were members of the ERC, or an ILO, etc.
To enable NSF and the ERCs to clearly understand the decision process involved in determining IP rights and conflicts of interest and how to manage them, Preston asked Deborah Jackson to build on the whiteboard exercise and develop a process flow chart. The result, shown in Figure 6-12, was the outcome of initial discussions about this flow chart with the ILOs. Once that input was received, Preston and Jackson discussed the new ERC Gen-3 IP policy and its COI implications with the NSF Policy Office and staff of the Office of the NSF Office of the General Counsel (OGC) to ensure that the guidance was consistent with NSF and OMB policy. The discussions were lively and informative, resulting in increased awareness of these issues as the ERC Program, and more broadly NSF, moved into the innovation space. Preston was informed that OMB was impressed with these efforts and the Policy Office and the OGC encouraged her to implement them.
Figure 6-12: Gen-3 IP Process Flow Guiding Translational Research
The pathway shown in Figure 6-12 guides the university and ERC administrators through decisions regarding whether an ERC can offer ERC-generated IP to a small non-member or member firm for commercialization. The first decision is to determine if the invention disclosure is funded by the ERC’s core support (NSF, University cost sharing, and direct industry member support). If yes, under the IP policy of the ERC, IAB members have to be offered first option to negotiate a license. If there is no entity willing to license the technology, then the invention enters the pool of invention technology available to non-member firms for translational research and it is eligible for an NSF or ERC-supported translational research award. (Farthest-right box). The other pathways point to how the university negotiates with IAB members that have the first option to negotiate a license (top pathway) and the pathway for associated project funding having first options for licensing (lower pathway).
Potential conflicts were defined as:
- INCOME including, but not limited to, salary, consulting fees, honoraria, travel reimbursement, and income related to intellectual property rights and interests (patents, copyrights). Report amounts.
- EQUITY including, but not limited to, stock, stock options, stock purchase plan, incentive stock options, phantom stock, and stock appreciation rights. Report value and/or percentage of ownership.
- POSITIONS including, but not limited to, employee, consultant, founder, partner, board of directors, officer, trustee, CEO, CTO, or SAB must be reported.
- FINANCIAL INTERESTS held by spouses and children of the individuals that hold these positions must also be reported.
Guidance regarding an ILO’s potential conflicts of interest was portrayed as shown in Figure 6-13 using the same pathway analysis. NSF’s role in requiring improved conflict of interest management for universities receiving ERC support was an important step in raising the awareness of universities regarding conflicts of interest as they entered the innovation space through an ERC or other sources of inventions.
Figure 6-13: Financial Conflict of Interest Triggers and Management
As a result of the dialogue among the staff of the ERC Program, university administrators, and NSF policy officials, the Gen-3 innovation ecosystem took on the following characteristics, summarized in the Industrial Collaboration and Innovation Chapter (FY 2012 edition) of the ERC Best Practices Manual.
For ERC-generated IP, the ERC offers the option to license to the member firms. If a member firm exercises the option, then the technology may move directly to the firm or the firm may sponsor a translational research project, involving ERC researchers in the process but under IP arrangements specific to the project. In this case, the roles of the ERC project director or Principal Investigator and the industrial sponsor will likely reverse. The ERC researcher at this point moves from directing the project into the advisory role, which had been occupied by the industry representative, and vice versa. In some cases, responsibility for scaling up the technology may move to someone in industry who had not been connected to its laboratory development. In either case, the ERC researcher should seek to remain available and involved. In cases in which the ERC researcher has a financial interest in the commercial success of the technology (such as inventorship of the IP), the incentive for involvement is obvious. The importance of input from the researcher in maximizing the chances of success of the technology (regardless of IP ownership) should not be overlooked, however.
For IP that member firms do not license, the ERC may offer the license to a large firm with resources sufficient to explore further development of the technology, or to a small firm (member firm or not). Because small firms typically do not have funds available to advance the technology, the firm may seek support from the ERC Program’s Translational Research Fund under the annual Small Business/ERC Collaborative Opportunity (SECO) solicitation. In that case, the small firm submits the proposal with a subaward to the ERC. IP generated from sponsored project support and translational research project support under SECO does not revert to the IAB or the university.
By 2011, the ERC Program Solicitation that resulted in the Class of 2013 characterized the ERC industrial collaboration/innovation feature as follows:
- Innovation ecosystem to bring industrial/practitioner perspectives to the ERC and accelerate the use of ERC-generated technology in industry an practice.
- Opportunity for large member firms or small non-member firms to develop IP generated by the ERC, if the ERC member firms exercise their first-right of refusal to license this IP; and
- Partnerships with university and/or state and local government organizations whose role is to facilitate entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic development at the local level.
The solicitation provided further guidance on technology transfer and innovation by specifying that the primary channel for commercialization is technology transfer to member firms or practitioner organizations. It noted, however, that there are times when member firms do not exercise the option to license ERC IP. In those cases, the center can explore partnerships for translational research with non-member firms who would license the IP. It suggests that if those firms are small firms, they should submit a proposal to the SBIR Program, presumably because the ERC could not afford further research toward development and should not fund product development by a small firm. The earlier reference that the firm could submit a proposal in partnership with the ERC to the ERC Program’s translation research fund had been eliminated.
Deborah Jackson formulated the innovation ecosystem strategy and published a paper which can be found on the ERC Associate website. She describes how ERCs can act as a technology push mechanism and resources devoted to commercialization on the part of industry, VCs, or the government can act as a technology pull across the “Challenge Basin” as shown in Figure 6-14.
Figure 6-14: Innovation Bridge Structure Turns the “Valley of Death” into a more approachable “Challenge Basin.” (Source: Deborah Jackson)
The question arises: Did these changes facilitated by the Gen-3 construct make a difference and significantly enhance the role of ERCs in innovation? Preston’s plan was to carry out an extensive evaluation of the Gen-3 construct when sufficient classes had been funded with sufficient time to enter the innovation space. Since she retired before that space could be entered, it remains a challenge to NSF.
6-E(f) Other Program Functions to Support Gen-3 ERCs
i. ERC ILO Consultancy
In 2000, to provide a more effective way of improving industrial collaboration programs, Preston decided to establish teams of current ILOs who would visit ERCs and provide guidance on how to strengthen their industrial collaboration programs. That way the best guidance would be provided by the ILOs who were facing the same issues as the visited ERCs. Overall, this step was taken because the ERC PDs lacked sufficient experience to provide this guidance, as did the site visit review teams. This team was called the ILO Consultancy and Erik Sander from the Florida ERC was given the responsibility to manage the Consultancy. He developed teams of two ILOs to visit and provide guidance to each ERC and produce a series of reports on each ERC’s industrial collaboration program, overall best practices underway, and any issues common across the ERCs.
ii. ILO Best Practices
The team of ILOs helped the ERCs to develop highly effective industrial collaboration programs and in 2013, Erik Sander, at that stage in his career the Director of the University of Florida Engineering Innovation Institute, was awarded a contract to write an updated chapter on industrial collaboration and innovation for the ERC Best Practices Manual. It is an excellent guideline on how to develop a strong and interactive program of support and collaboration with industry and practitioner organizations in an ERC, or any center for that matter.
iii. Improved NSF/ILO Coordination
To achieve a culture of continuous improvement for the ILO function, in addition to the Best Practices Manual and the ILO consultancies, Preston assigned Deborah Jackson to manage the industrial collaboration function. Figure 6-15 shows the functions on which she and the ILOs concentrated. Through these teleconferences she developed a lively and committed team of ILOs who address those functions, manage the Perfect Pitch Contest, and continually discuss the role of industry and translational research in ERCs in a mode of continuous improvement.
Figure 6-15: Management of Industrial Collaboration and Innovation (Source: L. Preston)
iv. Strategic Marketing of an ERC to Industry: The Value Chain
Peter Keeling, the Industrial Collaboration and Innovation Director at the Gen-3 ERC at the University of Iowa, the Center for Biorenewable Chemicals, developed a strategy for marketing the ERC to industry based on the value chain for firms related to the research thrusts of the ERC. The value chain moves from suppliers of raw materials to suppliers of primary and intermediary chemicals to producers of secondary intermediates and end users. After reviewing how this strategy improved the marketing analysis for the ERC and how the presentation of the value chain improved reporting on industrial collaboration, Preston decided to make it a requirement for all ERCs. Figure 6-16 displays the value chain for CBIRC.
Figure 6-16: CBiRC Value Chain
v. Importance of Industrial Collaboration to Self-sufficiency of a Graduated ERC
During this period a large number of ERCs had graduated from ERC Program support, having reached the end of their 10-11 year term of support and all were developing strategic plans for post-graduation survival. A survey of graduated ERCs found that 83 percent of the 35 ERCs that had graduated by January 2010, were self-sustaining. The study found that 80 to 90 percent of them continued to have the integration of research, education, and industrial interaction as their general organizing principle and also to maintain an engineered systems focus, with the continued involvement of undergraduate as well as graduate students in collaborative, cross-disciplinary research. However, 60 to 70 percent had strong industrial financial support and guiding direction, and industrial collaboration was diminished in the 10 to 20 percent that moved away from the ERC construct. “Support from industry during and after the transition and the continued guidance from an IAB are other factors that seem to correlate with a center’s likelihood of surviving.” It was reported that 31 percent eliminated the staff position for the ILO or merged it with another more administrative position. From this study and the Best Practices, it’s clear that a strong and interactive program of industrial collaboration proved to be a critical feature of whether or not an ERC could survive with most features operational after NSF-ERC support ceased.
6-E(g) Outcomes and Impacts
By the fall 2012, a total of 676 patents had been awarded to 61 ERCs between 1985 and 2012; 1281 licenses had been issued to companies; and 146 companies had been formed as spin-offs of ERC research, with a total of 1,032 employees. In addition, hundreds of discrete innovations had made their way into use in industry. The Best Practices noted that “Industrial involvement in the early stages of technology planning and development provides substantial payoffs when ERC students graduate. Many of the hiring companies have noted that ERC graduates, by virtue of their systems-oriented training, are more skilled at technological innovation and product/ process development than their non-ERC counterparts. They also are capable of integrating knowledge across disciplines, working in teams, understanding industrial needs, and addressing problems from an engineering systems perspective. Industrial sponsors typically comment that ERC students “land on their feet running” and “do not require the usual 12 to 18 months to come up to speed.” Many ERCs and their industrial members agree that students are the best and most lasting form of technology transfer.”
6-E(h) Lessons Learned
Between 1994 and 2014 the ERC Program functioned effectively to bring significant benefit to industry through exploration of new research frontiers motivated by visions for transforming engineered systems, new and innovative technology, and graduates who were highly effective in industry. The ERC Program invested over $1.0B in ERCs between 1985 and 2010, with a documented return on investment in the 10s of billions of dollars. These outcomes would not have been possible without strong and productive partnerships between the ERCs and their industrial partners and academic cultures that encouraged faculty and students to spin-out ERC inventions when industry did not take the risks to invest in them.
The inclusion of the Earthquake Engineering Research Centers and several other ERCs focused on infrastructure (e.g., the Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems [ATLSS] center) required an expansion of the partnership mode of the Program to include public sector practitioner organizations, such as local and state governments and emergency management entities. Partnerships with practitioner organizations differ considerably from those with industry, as practitioner organizations function with a public-good outcome mission rather than a profit motive and adoption of innovations often involves complex issues across several stakeholders at various levels of government. These partnerships also require the ERC to have a strong policy orientation with input from the social and decision sciences in order for them to effectively transfer their knowledge to public sector decision-makers and emergency response personnel.
Looking back over the decision to heed the recommendations of the 2004 COV and make a significant shift in the ERC construct, it appears that the Gen-3 construct for industrial collaboration and innovation had both positive and negative aspects. Some of the positives were:
- Continuing and strengthening the partnership between ERCs and their industrial/practitioner members was sound and continues to provide a strong basis for ERCs to impact U.S. competitiveness.
- The shift from a notion of technology transfer primarily to member firms, to the innovation ecosystem construct that included support for non-member start-ups to carry out the further development of high-risk ERC innovations, broadened the impact of ERCs on U.S. competitiveness.
- The complexities involved in determining how to manage IP when member firms did not move to advance the technology, how to stimulate small firms with or without ERC funds to further advance the technology, and the elucidation of potential faculty conflicts of interest were important new issues for NSF, industry, and the universities to address and the ERC Program led the way.
The most important lessons learned came from the IAB members themselves through their own ERC Program-level SWOT. The idea for the SWOT originated with Peter Seoane, the ILO at the North Carolina A&T ERC for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials. He managed the survey of the IAB members and presented their SWOT at the November 2012 ERC Annual Meeting. The survey was distributed to the IAB members and the Center Directors by their ILOs. Responses were obtained from 57 IAB members (equally distributed between large and small firms) and 13 ERC Directors. The results for IAB members and ERC Directors were reported separately and were not combined.
At total of 89.34 percent of the IAB members found that joining an ERC had exceeded (67.9%) or met (21.4%) their expectations. This was based on their assessment of the strengths of the IAB model, in that it:
- Keeps the focus on research that addresses important problem in industry;
- Improves the chances that the technology will transition to industry and will be producible;
- Brings together scientists and engineers from a number of competing companies along with the academic groups and leverages the resources and expertise of all to advance technology;
- Encourages multidisciplinary research in a complex emerging field;
- Gives firms the ability to work on pre-competitive research; and
- Results in less reinvestment for young researchers or students to join industry.
The single most important factor influencing their decision to join an IAB were to:
- Follow developments in a field related to my company’s business (36.2%)
- Support advances in a technology space important to my company (18.5%)
- Leverage company resources through collaborative research (9.3%)
- Evaluate students as potential employees (7.4%);
- Establish contacts with ERC faculty (7.4%); and
- Access ERC-developed IP (5.6%).
For the IAB members the following shows the percentage of respondents to each question that considered that item to be among their top three reasons for joining an ERC.
- Understanding ERC value proposition for industry (61.5%)
- Participating in technology road mapping and strategic planning (53.8%)
- Technology assessment (38.5%)
- Market Assessment (23.1%)
- Student preparation for research in an industrial setting (15.4%).
In terms of weaknesses, sustainability planning came in as the area most in need of IAB support (33.3%), followed by technology road mapping and strategic research planning (25%).
For the Center Directors the following is the percentage of respondents to each question that “strongly agreed” that it was the most important value of the IAB SWOT:
- Establishing and refining research directions (46.2%)
- Identifying potential commercial applications of ERC technology (23.1%)
- Determining the global competitiveness of ERC technology (23.1%)
- Establishing Center messaging (23.1%)
- Assessing the commercial/market value of ERC technology (15.4%)
- Establishing partnering strategies (15.4%).
From an ERC Program management point of view, during this Gen-3 period the strategy to build a community of ILOs to help manage industrial collaboration and ensure its continual benefits—an innovation ecosystem—instead of just using a series of mandates from the government, augmented by best-practices advice, had paid off. That payoff was in the form of closer and deeper linkages and engagement between the centers and their industry partners, a more continuous two-way interchange of ideas and technologies, and a steadier flow of innovations resulting in new commercialized processes and technologies. In turn, these successes have helped the great majority of ERCs sustain themselves as functioning ERC-like centers long after graduation—one of the central goals of the Program from NSF’s point of view.
Influenced by the changing cultures of academe and industry, as well as the evolving body of knowledge and policy at NSF, the ILO position has changed over time. Bill Michalerya, at Lehigh’s ATLSS, was the first ILO, and the one upon whose role the rest of the Gen-1 ERC ILOs were modeled—mostly focused on signing up companies and fostering broader industrial collaboration. Gen-2 ILOs started getting more involved in intellectual property management, industry internships for students, and interactions with small firms. The Gen-3 innovation ecosystem construct pushed new demands on the ILO to include translational research, entrepreneurship, and state/local partnerships across multiple universities for innovation acceleration. Indeed, these accumulating expectations have pushed the Gen-3 innovation ecosystem responsibilities to often overflow onto two or more people, one of which typically maintains many of the core Gen-2 ILO responsibilities. Looking over the horizon to Gen-4, one thing is for sure, the ILO and innovation ecosystem will continue to evolve to enable even more industrial competitiveness, innovation, economic impact, and value.
6-F Exemplary ILOs
The importance of the Industrial Liaison Officer to the success of an ERC was already evident by the early 1990s, so that this staff officer was required at all ERCs beginning with the Class of 1994/95, the first group of Gen-2 centers. The “prototype” for the ILO role was first represented by William (“Bill”) Michalerya, who was brought onto the staff of the ERC for Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems (ATLSS), at Lehigh University, shortly after its establishment to manage the center’s industrial collaboration activities. (His initial title was Manager of Industrial Liaison & Technology Transfer.) ATLSS was one of the second class of ERCs, formed in 1986. Michalerya was so successful in this role that it was quickly replicated in other ERCs. (See Section 6-D(b), Augmented Role of the Industrial Liaison Officer.”)
Former ATLSS ILO Bill Michalerya
Often, ILOs came from industry with research experience there and usually also with prior experience in working in and with academe. They have been a diverse group across the years, with the majority being men but a significant percentage of them being women. Some have been recently retired from industry; others are early in their career. Many go on to attain higher positions in the university, in industry, or even to start their own businesses. Michalerya, for example, at the time of writing is Lehigh’s Associate Vice President for Government Relations and Economic Development.
The role of the ILO has varied not only over time but also in terms of the industrial or technological focus of their ERC and their title and relative ranking in the leadership cadre of the ERC. In this section we will briefly describe a number of ILOs who stand out as exemplars of their role in various ERCs across the 30 years of this History.
One of the first ILOs, following soon after Michalerya pioneered the role, was James Williams, at Carnegie Mellon University’s Data Storage Systems Center (DSSC), in the Class of 1990. Like Michalerya, Williams’ role was not explicitly limited to “industrial liaison.” With the title of Operations Director and Industrial Liaison Officer, he functioned much like a Chief Operating Officer, responsible for managing not only the center’s industrial interactions but also large construction projects and laboratory development. This period of time predated the establishment of the Deputy Director role at ERCs, and ILOs such as Williams often performed that function to a considerable extent. The DSSC was instrumental in establishing the National Storage Industries Consortium (NSIC). Alongside the DSSC’s Director, Mark Kryder, Williams played a significant role in managing that process and the resulting interactions with NSIC.
The first female ILO-type staff member at an ERC was Beth Starbuck, Associate Director of Technology Transfer at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Interfacial Engineering (Class of 1988). As a woman dealing with what were then heavily male-dominated corporate members and industries, Ms. Starbuck broke the glass ceiling in many ways and forged a path for successful female ILOs to follow. She served as co-chair, with Jim Williams, of the working group of ILO-type ERC staff members who wrote the first ERC Best Practices chapter on Industrial Collaboration and Technology Transfer, in 1997.
Two other early Industrial Liaison Officers who exemplified the qualities of an effective ILO, even contributing to the ERC Program above and beyond their center role, were Eric Sander, at the University of Florida’s Particle ERC (PERC), and Carl Rust, at Georgia Tech’s Packaging Research Center (PRC)—both centers in the Class of 1995 and among the earliest Gen-2 ERCs, in which involvement with small businesses and startups began to gain prominence. Sander in particular is notable for having managed the startup and operation of the ILO Consultancy, of which Rust was a founding member as well. (See Section 6-E(f)i.) Both were centrally involved in developing and, to some degree, standardizing the industry membership agreements for ERCs.
In 1997, Sander was the ILO representative of a team formed by the Science and Technology Policy Institute to gain insights into research center design and operation around the world. In 2013 he led the updating of the Industrial Collaboration chapter of the ERC Best Practices Manual. Sander formed a company, Elysium Holdings LLC, while still an ILO and later became the Director of the University of Florida Engineering Innovation Institute, a position he still holds as of the time of writing. It is worth noting that Sander’s education combines a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering with an MS in Management of Technology, which was a very effective combination for the ILO role and his subsequent role in guiding university/industry efforts in advancing technology in Florida and abroad.
Former PERC ILO Erik Sander
Carl Rust is currently the Associate Vice President for International Initiatives and Principal Director for Industry Collaboration at Georgia Tech, where he is responsible for pursuing the university’s international goals, particularly those related to international industry-university collaboration, entrepreneurship, commercialization, and economic development. He is another example of the career upward mobility often demonstrated by ILOs after their center graduates from the ERC Program.
Former PRC ILO Carl Rust
Another outstanding early ILO was Andrew Branca, at the University of Washington’s UWEB (Class of 1996). This center focused on the biomedical field, where small, innovative startups were common alongside large companies. It required an entrepreneurial mindset, and today Dr. Branca, a biochemist, is President of Orbital Therapeutics, a small pharmaceutical and biomaterials company. While ILO at UWEB, Branca played an important role in helping ERCs and the universities deal with intellectual property (IP) issues arising from cross-disciplinary, cross-university ERCs with industry members having IP rights. An example is his basic primer on Invention.
Former UWEB ILO Andy Branca
Among the notable early female ILOs was Theresa Shaw, at the Center for Power Electronics Systems (CPES), in the Class of 1998. This was the first ERC to be truly multi-institutional, with five university partners. See the accompanying case study for details on how this complex ERC/industry relationship was managed effectively.
CPES ILO Teresa Shaw
| CASE STUDY |
One of the first female ILOs was Teresa Shaw, at the Center for Power Electronics Systems (CPES, in the Class of 1998), headquartered at Virginia Tech. This was the first ERC to be truly multi-institutional, with five university partners. Shaw and the Director of the ERC, Dr. Fred Lee, jointly managed more than 80 industry partners across this far-flung center, in what Lee describes as a “co-ILO” relationship. Especially in a field involving industrial integration from component suppliers to systems builders, end users, and simulation software developers in a range of different industries, management of an industry consortium of this size, paired with a multi-university partnership across a variety of industry sectors was a new type of challenge for an ILO. Shaw and Lee managed the industrial collaboration program partly by developing a close working relationship with the Chair of CPES’ Industrial Advisory Board (IAB), Dr. John Steel. Shaw’s greatest strengths as ILO were in customer service and logistics. Steel was widely regarded as a marketing guru in the power supplies industry who, as Lee puts it, “communicates with positivity and flair.” Elizabeth Tranter, one of the members of the ERC’s leadership team at that time, recalls that, “John was with Artesyn Technologies in Minneapolis at CPES’ time of inception, and later retired from Artesyn. Fred Lee was remarkably resourceful at leveraging his relationships with industrial advocates. For example, he always held a Wednesday ‘huddle’ with his most trusted advisors—who were longtime champions of the power electronics industry and also mostly retirees—during the noon hour. It was important for him to be able to share in a candid fashion some of the Center’s successes and challenges, and to have the unbiased input of those whose opinions he respected and trusted. John joined Fred in conducting these calls with a select few IAB members; through the calls Teresa, John, and Fred worked quite diligently to address issues, develop frameworks for strategic planning, and move programs forward in a thoughtful and collaborative manner. John was able to call Teresa directly to discuss logistics related to implementation, since the weekly huddle calls ensured that Fred, John, the IAB Secretary (another “huddle” member, Pierre Thollot) and she would be in complete alignment regarding the path forward. Fred always ensured that he received unvarnished feedback from his IAB; but he understood that the consortium, its component universities, and the various industry and grant-based funding streams and agreements were complex enough that misinformation could enter the system, so this type of regular, open, and tightly coordinated communication was critically important to the achievement of the Center’s goals.” From Fred Lee’s perspective as Center Director, this system worked. “Ideas would come out of the weekly IAB huddles. John would communicate in such a way that everybody listened and participated. Teresa would execute the logistical details. This relationship proved to be very effective and worked well primarily because of a good mix in terms of strengths, roles, and personalities.”
Among the outstanding later female ILOs was Silvia Mioc, noted not only for her leadership in strengthening the industrial consortium of the Smart Lighting ERC based at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but also for her leadership in initiating the Perfect Pitch Contest, which began at this ERC but soon became a Program-wide feature that had a powerful impact on the ability of ERC students to succinctly “pitch” an idea for a new technology in 90 seconds. See the discussion of the Perfect Pitch Contest in the Education and Outreach chapter, section 7-D(d). A video featuring Silvia describing the ERC—later renamed the Lighting Enabled Systems and Applications (LESA) ERC—provides a good example of the role of an ILO in communicating the mission and technical goals of an ERC. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7O4Bri1bc_8)
Former LESA ILO Sylvia Mioc
Some ERCs, like the Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA), at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, served not only industrial users but also public-sector agency users, and in CASA’s case, emergency managers. Brenda Philips served CASA in the role of Director of Industry, Government and End-user Partnerships, building a trusted relationship between the ERC, its faculty, administrators at NOAA, and National Weather Service (NWS) emergency managers. She was able to effectively communicate across engineers, meteorologists, and atmospheric scientists to help the Center Director build a collaborative academic team and bring the needs of the end-users to that team. Together they built collaborative radar systems that proved their value to the NWS in tests in Oklahoma. (See, for example, http://erc-assoc.org/sites/default/files/CASA-Discovery_radar.pdf) Upon CASA’s graduation from NSF support, Philips (by then the Center Director) and her colleague, Apoorva Bajaj (by then the ILO at CASA), won an award from the NSF Partnerships for Innovation program—an Accelerating Innovation Research (AIR) award—to build a post-academic proof-of-concept to test the efficacy of CASA radars in predicting heavy rainstorms in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The award was made in partnerships with the NSF and local governments. Barbara Kenny, who had left the ERC Program in 2013 to manage the AIR program, was the project’s Program Director.
Former CASA ILO Brenda Philips
Late in the Gen-2 ERC period and into the Gen-3 era, from the mid-2000s on, an increased emphasis on innovation led to the development of thrusts within ERCs aimed explicitly at putting ERC students and faculty in contact with investors and industry leaders to generate spinoffs and startups. ILOs led these initiatives. One example was the QoLT Foundry, formed and led by Executive in Residence and ILO, Curt Stone, at the Quality of Life Technologies ERC at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh (Class of 2006). The Foundry was launched in 2008 with the goal of creating student-led companies that market new-technology products based on QoLT’s research and associated projects. The Foundry’s process for building successful entrepreneurs involved the discovery and vetting of technologies, protecting intellectual property, defining business models, advising on strategic positioning, building experienced management teams, creating alliances, and identifying market and funding opportunities. The Foundry had a strong presence for several years running at the famous Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Curt Stone passed away in 2012.
Former QoLT ILO Curt Stone
Another example of the growing interest in commercialization of their technologies by ERCs was the Investment Focus Group (IFG) at the Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE) ERC, also in the Class of 2006 and based at Princeton University. Started by former MIRTHE Executive Director and ILO Joseph Montemarano and current ILO Bernadeta Wysocka, the IFG succeeded in bridging the “valley of death” gap between innovation and commercialization through conferences that brought the Center’s students and faculty together with venture capitalists on a regional and national level.
Former MIRTHE ILO Joe Montemarano
Well into the Gen-3 ERC period, which began in 2008, the ILO role continued to flourish and evolve in ERCs. After founding a number of biotechnology startup firms, Dr. Peter Keeling was first the Industrial Collaboration and Innovation Director at the Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC, Class of 2008) and then also the Innovation and Industry Director at a 2017 ERC, CISTAR (the Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources, headquartered at Purdue University). Keeling introduced the ILOs to the concept of strategically developing their industrial memberships through a value chain analysis, discussed in Section 6-E(f).
CBiRC and CISTAR ILO Peter Keeling
As the ILO at the Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials ERC (RMB, Class of 2008), Dr. Peter Seoane organized a number of industry conferences on Center-developed products and their commercial applications and potential. He also conducted, on his own initiative, a SWOT survey of ERC IABs aimed at strengthening the role of the IAB in ERCs, as noted in Section 6-E(h). Seoane has since founded a business startup consulting company called One-Bucket Solutions LLC.
Former RMB ILO Peter Seoane
Initially an unlikely role in academia, in the sense that the ILOs strongly represented the industry influence that is so central to an ERC, which they had to merge with the academic culture, the ILOs quickly bridged these gaps and became indispensable to the success of ERCs and of the ERC Program as a whole. Through this experience, we have seen examples of how they often rose to higher levels of management-of-technology initiatives as they progressed in their academic careers.
6-G ERC Students and Faculty Who Achieved Notable Success in Industry
Through 2016, ERC students collectively across all ERCs had been granted a total of nearly 13,000 degrees (bachelors through PhD). ERC graduates are contributing their unique expertise and talents to a broad range of industries across the U.S. and around the world, while others have become faculty members at research universities or researchers at national laboratories. Many ERC faculty members also have either started companies or gone into industry. In this way the ERC Program is achieving its goal of contributing to a diverse workforce of globally-aware technology leaders and innovators who directly transfer ERC-developed knowledge and technologies in a wide range of fields.
In this section we will describe just a few of the thousands of ERC graduates and faculty members who have gone on to become technology leaders and innovators in industry. The selection of centers and participants is subjective—by technology field and ordered by year of formation of the center. They are intended merely to convey a sense of the tremendous diversity of types and talents that ERC graduates and faculty represent. Position descriptions are current as of the time of writing (mid-2018).
6-G(a) Micro/Optoelectronics, Sensing, and IT Tech Cluster
Optoelectronic Computing Systems (OCS) ERC–Class of 1987
Kristina Johnson (BSEE, MSEE, PhD, Stanford, 1975–1983) is currently Chancellor of the State University of New York. From 1985 through 1999 she was a faculty member, thrust leader, and then Director of the OCS ERC at the University of Colorado. During and after that time Dr. Johnson founded several spinoff companies, including Colorlink which was eventually sold to RealD and provided the technology underlying modern 3D movies such as Avatar. More recently, she became involved in clean-energy hydropower generation as founder and CEO of two companies, Enduring Hydro and Cube Hydro Partners. Meanwhile, she was rising rapidly through the ranks of academic administration as Dean of Engineering at Duke University (1999-2007) and Provost at Johns Hopkins University (2007-2009), followed by a stint as Under Secretary of Energy in the Obama Administration, before becoming Chancellor of the SUNY system in 2017.
Jian-Yu Liu (PhD EE, University of Colorado, 1988-1992) was the President and CEO of Cogo Optronics, a developer of high-speed optical modulators which was acquired in 2013 by Montreal-based telecommunications company TeraXion a leader in ultrafast optoelectronic components. Prior to founding Cogo in 2007, Liu was President and CEO of EZconn Corp., and CTO of Chorum Technologies, Inc., which he founded in 1998. Liu passed away in 2010.
Center for Neuromorphic Systems Engineering (CNSE)–Class of 1995
Vance Bjorn (BS, MS, Caltech, 1991–1995) is currently (since 2016) the CEO and co-founder of CertifID. As a Caltech undergraduate at the CNSE, along with fellow student Serge Belongie he co-developed the core algorithm for a powerful new fingerprint recognition technology. Bjorn was a Caltech Merit Scholar and earned Graduate Standing in Computing and Neural Systems (CNS) while a senior at Caltech (the only Caltech undergraduate ever to receive this honor in CNS); he was also a finalist for both the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships. After graduation, he and Belongie founded DigitalPersona (DP), one of the first biometric companies. DP’s fingerprint recognition technology was used in Windows laptops when that capability was first launched. Bjorn was CTO at DigitalPersona for nearly 20 years and co-founded CertiID, where he is CEO. https://www.linkedin.com/in/vancebjorn/
Dr. Christophe Moser (PhD, Caltech, 1995-2000) is currently Associate Professor of Microengineering and Industrial Relations at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). Immediately after receiving his doctorate from Caltech and the CNSE, he became the co-founder and CEO of Ondax, Inc., a position he held for ten years prior to joining EPFL. (He continues as CTO of Ondax.) During that decade, Moser raised $15 million from corporate and venture capital sources to fund volume production of thick holographic components in glass and develop devices enabled by these components. In mid-2014, Moser co-founded Composyt Light Labs, a developer of optical tools for ophthalmology. This startup was acquired by Intel later that same year. In addition to his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Caltech, Dr. Moser has a bachelor’s degree in Physics with a minor in finance from EPFL. He is the co-inventor on 24 patents.
Packaging Research Center (PRC)–Class of 1995
Eric Fitzgerald (BS, MS in ME, Georgia Tech, 1998-2004) rose rapidly through the ranks at Schlumberger from Microelectronics Packaging Lead Engineer to Microelectronics R&D Lead to his current position as Field Deployment Lead.
Weiping Li (PhD MSE, Georgia Tech, 1994-1999), one of Center Director Rao Tummala’s first students at the PRC, began his career as a Product Engineer at Delphi Automotive Systems but never lost his focus on 3D packaging technologies. He soon went to work at Motorola Semiconductor and is currently Senior VP for Investment and Acquisition at Tsinghua Unigroup, in China.
Hitesh Windlass (MS in MSE, Georgia Tech, 1998-2000) is the Director and Co-founder of Windlas Healthcare Ltd. Mr. Windlass is an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) graduate with MS and MBA degrees from Georgia Tech and the University of Chicago. He has fourteen inventions and eight US patents to his credit. Based in India, Windlas Healthcare (also known as Windlas Biotech) operates globally and is an FDA-approved pharmaceutical formulations manufacturer. After graduating, he worked as an engineer at Intel and later as an investment analyst at a venture capital firm in Illinois.
Center for Power Electronics Systems (CPES)–Class of 1998
Zhihong (Sam) Ye (PhD in EE, Virginia Tech, 2000), shortly after obtaining his doctorate was the Principle Investigator/Project Leader of a multi-year, multi-million-dollar project funded by the U.S. DOE and GE Corporate, leading a cross-business global team with team members from the U.S., Canada, China, and India. The objective of the project was to promote distributed generation (DG), renewable/alternative energy. At the General Electric Global Research Center, Dr. Ye’s technical leadership generated a visible impact on GE businesses, U.S. government energy policies, and the distributed generation/alternative energy industry. Dr. Ye is currently the Associate Vice President at Lite-On Technology Corp. in China, and Director of the Advanced Technology Development Division there.
Zhihong (Sam) Ye
Michael Zhang (PhD in EE, Virginia Tech, 1990-1997) went to work for CPES industrial member Intel in China right after finishing his doctorate, where he le d system development teams in the development of new PC uses and next-generation desktop systems. He then worked for semiconductor manufacturer AMD in Shanghai. Currently, Dr. Zhang is back in the U.S. as the director of the Silicon Valley R&D Center for Neusoft, where he leads the development of technologies in autonomous driving and cloud computing.
Richard S. Zhang (PhD in EE, Virginia Tech, 1994-1998) is the Chief Technical Officer of HVDC/FACTS unit of General Electric’s GE Grid Solutions Division in England. Earlier he was the manager of the Electronic Power Conversion Lab in GE’s Global Research Center in Japan, where he led teams pursuing innovations in power electronics technology and new product development. He has since led increasingly larger GE research efforts in China and France, including a Global Technology & Value Engineering team with 430 people in 14 sites in 8 countries. Since 2007, Dr. Zhang has been the Chairman of the CPES Industrial Advisory Board.
ERC for Wireless Integrated Microsystems (WIMS)–Class of 2000
Michael McCorquodale (MSE, PhD in EE, University of Michigan, 2000-2004) founded Mobius Microsystems, specializing in novel all-silicon clock/timing products, just after finishing his doctoral degree in 2004. Si timing devices were a true disruptive technology, replacing the bulkier and more expensive quartz technology used in ubiquitous devices like cell phones. McCorquodale served as CTO of Mobius until the company was acquired by Integrated Device Technology, Inc. (ITD) in 2010, where he was then named General Manager of the Silicon Frequency Control Business Unit in IDT’s Communications Division. An entrepreneur at heart, “Going straight down a crooked path,” as he puts it, McCorquodale has since founded and/or served as CEO of three more startups, and as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Pear VC, a Silicon Valley venture capital fund. In 2016 and 2017, he “gave back” to his alma mater, Michigan, as an Adjunct Lecturer in EE and Computer Science.
Extreme Ultraviolet ERC (EUV)–Class of 2003
David Gaudiosi (MS, PhD, Physics, Colorado State, 1999-2006) is currently an Optical Engineer at L-3 Communications, where he works on laser design and applications. After graduating with his doctorate, Gaudiosi worked at Raydiance, Inc., where he was Senior Scientist and later the Principal Engineer and process development technical lead for the Raydiance glass cutting technology.
Courtney (Brewer) Martin (BS, MS ECE, Colorado State, 2000-2008) is a photolithography process engineer with Avago Technologies, Ft. Collins CO. She joined Center corporate member Intel for the summer of 2005 after graduating with her BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Colorado State University (CSU). Prior to her internship at Intel she completed a year-round Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) at the EUV ERC, working on an EUV microscope based on a table-top 13.2 nm wavelength laser. At the Santa Clara Intel facility, Courtney made use of her experience to work on technical issues related to Intel’s EUV lithography effort. After completing the internship Courtney returned to CSU to begin graduate studies in EUV. After earning her master’s, she was hired by Intel and later by Avago Technologies. She is a good example of the power of internships in connecting students with industry employment.
Georgiy Vaschenko (PhD, EEE, Colorado State, 2002) is a Principal Scientist at Cymer, the largest supplier of deep ultraviolet (DUV) light sources used by chipmakers to pattern advanced semiconductor chips or integrated circuits. After earning his BS in laser and optical engineering at a Russian university and working in industry for several years, he came to Colorado State and the EUV, where he received his doctorate in 2002. At Cymer, an EUV ERC industry member, Vaschenko is responsible for solving one of the top technological challenges related to EUV light sources for semiconductor lithography: the development of a target delivery system. In 2017, Cymer announced the commercial availability of the first 250 watt EUV source, a milestone they achieved using EUV ERC-developed technology.
ERC for Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE)–Class of 2006)
Kale Franz (PhD EE, Princeton, 2009) is the Cloud Infrastructure Tech Lead at genealogy company 23andMe Inc. While a doctoral candidate at Princeton in 2007, working in the lab of MIRTHE Center Director Claire Gmachl on quantum cascade lasers, Franz and two other MIRTHE graduate students formed a start-up company called Primis Technologies. Primis was created to commercialize a new generation of low-cost, lightweight, and extremely sensitive sensors made possible by advances in mid-infrared quantum cascade lasers. MIRTHE allowed the students to operate the company while they finished their graduate studies. At Primis, Franz served as Senior Engineer. He later was the Anaconda Tech Lead at Continuum Analytics, a data science platform developer, before joining 23andMe.
Kale Franz (in foreground)
6-G(b) Advanced Manufacturing Tech Cluster
Institute for Systems Research (ISR)–Class of 1985
Mingyan Liu (MSE, PhD EE, University of Maryland, 1997-2000) is a professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at the University of Michigan and a Fellow of IEEE. Her cyber-risk startup company, QuadMetrics, was founded in 2014 and acquired in 2016 by FICO, the credit-rating company. QuadMetrics helps enterprise networks manage and quantify cybersecurity risks through predictive analytics and proprietary data sources, allowing IT professionals to address security gaps and enabling insurers to better understand an organization’s security risk. Liu’s research is in resource allocation, performance analysis, and energy-efficient design of wireless, mobile ad hoc, and sensor networks.
ERC for Net Shape Manufacturing (NSM-ERC)–Class of 1986
Harald Krüger (NSM Visiting Scholar, 1990-1991, Ohio State University) is the current chairman of the Board of Management (CEO) for BMW AG. Krüger spent a year on research at the German Aerospace Center, after which he joined BMW in 1992 in the Technical Planning/Production Division. After a steady rise through management ranks at BMW, he assumed the CEO role in 2015. Krüger is also a member of the Managing Board of the German Association of the Automotive Industry and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Technical University of Munich.
Suwat Jirathearanat (PhD, Mechanical Engineering, 1998-2003, Ohio State University) is a Senior Scientist at the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology, specializing in engineering research and development, analysis, simulation modeling, and optimization in the metal forming field for the automotive industry. Formerly he was a researcher for the National Metal and Materials Technology Center in Thailand, his home country.
Data Storage Systems Center (DSSC)–Class of 1990
Mark Re (PhD Electrical and Computer Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, 1981-1987) is Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President for R&D at Seagate Technology. He is responsible for all hard disk drive product and component research and development. Prior to joining Seagate he was a Director at IBM, where was named IBM Distinguished Engineer in 1997, and he later was an SVP at the Read-Rite Corporation.
Center for Environmentally Benign Semiconductor Manufacturing (CEBSM)–Class of 1996
John DeGenova (PhD ChemE, University of Arizona, 2001), now president of the DeGenova Engineering Group, was for 30 years a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at Texas Instruments Inc. He is an alumnus of the NSF/SRC-funded CEBSM ERC. DeGenova was an industrial assignee to the CEBSM from Texas Instruments through the ERC’s Visiting Researcher Program, a unique feature of this ERC’s collaboration with its industrial members. His work on novel methods for water recycling was one of the award-winning projects at the ERC and was implemented in industry, with major impact on improved efficiency and cost reduction in water utilization. The system simulator he developed as a part of his Ph.D. dissertation has been used in industry and is licensed to SEMATECH for commercialization. DeGenova is currently an advisor to Ovivo, a Montreal-based global provider of equipment, technology and systems for treating challenging wastewater problems.
Hilton Pryce Lewis (PhD, MIT 2001) is the President and CEO of GVD Corporation. Lewis is an alumnus of the NSF/SRC-funded CEBSM ERC through its partner, MIT. His work on direct patterning of integrated circuits received the Excellence Award for Research in Manufacturing and Environment, Safety and Health from the Semiconductor Research Corporation and International SEMATEC in 2000. Upon leaving MIT, Lewis founded GVD Corporation with four other people, including MIT Professor Karen Gleason and another MIT Ph.D. graduate of the ERC, Dr. Kenneth Lau. GVD’s technology finds its inspiration in chemical vapor deposition (CVD), a process commonly used in the microelectronics industry to manufacture silicon chips. GVD uses a modified process, cooler temperatures, and radically different chemistry to create highly customized polymer coatings that enable a new generation of membranes and novel biocompatible surfaces.
Hilton Pryce Lewis
Taber Smith (PhD EECS, MIT 1994-2000) is an alumnus of the NSF/SRC-funded CEBSM ERC. He was President of Praesagus, Inc., a design-for-manufacturing (DFM) electronic design automation (EDA) software company he founded and launched soon after completing his PhD to develop and bring to market CMP characterization test wafers and modeling methods for advanced IC technologies. The test wafers had a significant impact on industry; many semiconductor equipment and consumable companies used them to help develop and optimize their CMP tools and processes. In 2006, Cadence Design Systems Inc. bought Praesagus for $25.8 million. At Cadence, Smith managed the Manufacturing Modeling Group. Later he joined Focal Point Energy as its President and CEO. Since 2013 he has been the Engineering Lead at Gener8, a Silicon Valley company that provides product design and manufacturing services to high-tech and medical product companies.
Laura Pruette Losey (PhD EECS, MIT, 1998-2001) is an R&D Engineering Manager at Sandia National Laboratories. There, her responsibilities include system-level electrical architecture design, component integration, and requirements development. Previously she was a high school science teacher, a consultant, and a member of the technical staff at Texas Instruments, where she managed external research relationships in the areas of Interconnect and Environment, Safety, and Health (ESH) for the Silicon Technology Development organization.
Laura Pruette Losey
Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems (RMS) ERC–Class of 1996
Farshid Asl (PhD , University of Michigan, 2002) is a Managing Director in Goldman Sachs’ Investment Strategy Group , in charge of Strategic and Quantitative Asset Allocation. Previously, he was the Senior VP at GMAC Enterprise Risk Services, where he was Head of the Quantitative Risk Group, where he led strategic direction in the development and operations of risk management systems and processes for GM, GMAC, and GM Asset Management. Since 2004, he has been an Adjunct Professor of Econometrics and Statistical Arbitrage at New York University.
|From Manufacturing to Money Management |
Farshid Asl had recently obtained his master’s degree from Villanova University based on his research in robotics and control. In 1998, University of Michigan (UM) Prof. Galip Ulsoy, the Deputy Director of the Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems ERC there, interviewed Asl as a candidate for the PhD in Mechanical Engineering. Prof. Ulsoy wanted to accept Asl, but told him that the final decision would rest with Center Director Yoram Koren. As Asl recalls, “Professor Koren gave me a chance to speak about my previous research and my plans for my PhD. He said, ‘You have passion in your voice and I think you will do well. I like you!,’ and that opened the doors for me.” After Asl received his PhD in 2002, Prof. Koren hired him as his post-doc, working in capacity management using stochastic control. A few months later, Dr. Asl made a presentation about his ERC research in a professional conference. At the end of his presentation, a representative from General Motors came up to talk with him and invited Asl for an interview, after which he was offered a position as a Vice President at GMAC Enterprise Risk Services, leading the Quantitative Risk Group, with a salary that was more than double that of his employer, Dr. Koren. But Asl had committed to stay on with Koren as his post-doc and felt obligated to ask Koren’s permission. He talked with Koren and said, “The job offer is a big opportunity for me, but you were the one who opened the doors for me and gave me the opportunity; so if you tell me to stay, I’ll stay.” Dr. Koren told Asl, of course, to accept the offer; he appreciated Asl’s honesty. Asl soon rose to Senior Vice President at GMAC. Today Farshid Asl is a Managing Director in the Investment Strategy Group of a major investment bank in Manhattan, a “financial engineer” at the center of world financial markets—a long way from Ann Arbor and research on reconfigurable manufacturing. In 2013, Dr. Asl received the Michigan Engineering Alumni Merit Award for Integrative Systems & Design from UM.
Center for Advanced Engineering Fibers and Films (CAEFF)–Class of 1998
Brigitte Gomillion Williams (PhD MSE, Clemson University, 2000) is a Senior Polymer and Product Development Scientist at Quanex Building Products Corp. After graduation she worked for Dow Chemical as a Research Engineer and Product Development Specialist in novel polymeric materials, utilizing film, foam, and fiber process technology, and later for Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in a similar role.
Brigitte Gomillion Williams
6-G(c) Energy, Environment, and Infrastructure Tech Cluster
FREEDM Systems Center–Class of 2008
Thomas Nudell (PhD EE, North Carolina State University, 2011-2014) is the Manager of Product and Solution Analytics at Smart Wires Inc. There, he leads an interdisciplinary team of transmission planning engineers, software engineers, and analysts who run advanced transmission planning studies, are automating, optimizing, and building a reproducible data analysis pipeline for transmission planning and operation, and who build and maintain Smart Wires field device models for a variety of software packages.
Center for Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems (ATLSS) Manufacturing–Class of 1986
Richard Garlock (MS CE, Lehigh University) is an Associate Partner at LERA Consulting Structural Engineers in New York City, providing services to architects, owners, contractors, and developers.
6-G(d) Biotechnology and Health Care Tech Cluster
Bioprocess Engineering Center (BPEC)–Class of 1985
Noubar Afeyan (PhD BioChemE, MIT, 1987) founded PerSeptive Biosystems in Cambridge, MA, shortly after earning his doctorate as one of the first students in BPEC. While CEO of PerSeptive, Afeyan co-founded and funded numerous other biotechnology companies, including: ChemGenics Pharmaceuticals, acquired by Millennium Pharmaceuticals in 1997; Exact Sciences; Agenus; and Color Kinetics, acquired by Philips in 2007. After PerSeptive’s acquisition by Perkin Elmer/Applera Corporation in 1998, Afeyan became Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer of Applera, where he initiated and oversaw the creation of Celera Genomics. In 2000, Afeyan founded Flagship Ventures (renamed Flagship Pioneering in 2016), where he currently serves as Senior Managing Partner and CEO. Flagship Pioneering focuses on creating and investing in first-in-category, high-value life science companies in three principal business sectors: therapeutics, health technologies, and sustainability. He is widely recognized as one of the most successful biotech entrepreneurs in the world today.
Dawn Applegate (PhD ChemE, MIT, 1986-1992) is the owner of RegeneMed, Inc., a biotech company founded with her husband, BPEC alumni Mark Applegate, to translate tissue transplantation technology into lab-based human organs with that aim of replacing animal testing in pharmaceutical drug discovery. After taking her PhD, for 8 years Applegate was the Director of Technology Development at Advanced Tissue Sciences, which developed the first engineered-tissue implants to replace donor organ transplants. These technologies all derive from technologies developed at BPEC.
Mark Applegate (PhD BiochemE, MIT, 1992) over the course of his career directed scientific teams to scale up and commercialize a wide range of biotechnology products, including microbial fermentation-derived food and industrial chemicals at Merck Pharmaceuticals. At Advanced Tissue Sciences, Inc., with fellow BPEC graduate and wife Dawn Applegate he developed the first bioreactor and cryopreservation systems for production and distribution of a living, engineered-tissue construct for transplantation therapy. Together they founded the biotechnology consulting firm Applegate & Associates, Inc. He also partnered with Dawn to devise the business strategy for RegeneMed, Inc. to employ tissue transplantation into lab-based human organs as a substitute for animal testing in drug research. Earlier, Applegate developed a revolutionary personalized-medicine immunotherapy to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at Favrille, Inc., and a gene therapy product line to treat multiple cancers and serve as DNA vaccines at Vical, Inc. Mark Applegate passed away in 2016.
John Aunins (PhD ChemE, MIT, 1983-1989) is the Executive Vice President and CTO of Seres Health, Inc., a clinical stage startup biotherapeutic company focused on discovering and developing Ecobiotic™ therapeutic products, which are novel drugs to treat important diseases by targeting the underlying biology of the human microbiome. Seres is pioneering the first therapeutics that catalyze a shift to health by augmenting the biology of the human microbiome. Previously, Aunins was President of Janis Biologics, and prior to that was at Merck Pharmaceuticals for 22 years, where he was Executive Director of Merck Research Laboratories. There he developed and/or enabled the commercial cell and virus culture processes for production of Merck’s Hepatitis A Virus (VAQTA) and Varicella Zoster Virus (chicken pox, VARIVAX) vaccines. He also contributed to the identification of an HIV-1 protease inhibitor (CrixivanÒ).
Brian Kelley (PhD ChemE, MIT, 1987-1992) is the Senior Vice President of biomedical startup Vir Biotechnology, Inc. and Vice President for Bioprocess Development at Genentech, where he is responsible for development, validation, and technology transfer of fermentation, cell culture, chromatography and filtration unit operations. Previously he spent 15 years at the Genetics Institute of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. In 2016, Kelley was elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering “For leadership in the development of bioprocess technology and cost-effective manufacturing processes for clinically effective recombinant protein therapeutics.”
Center for Integrated Surgical Systems and Technologies (CISST)–Class of 1998
Carol Reiley (PhD CS/Robotics, Johns Hopkins University, 2004-2011) is a roboticist, the co-founder and President of drive.ai, an artificial intelligence self-driving vehicle startup. At the CISST she focused on teleoperated robotic surgery. During and after her graduate studies, Reiley was a clinical development engineering consultant at Intuitive Surgical, the manufacturer of the DaVinci surgical robotic system. Later she founded TinkerBelle Laboratories, which focused on designing low-cost, innovative healthcare solutions for global application. Reiley was selected by Forbes as one of “20 Incredible Women in AI” and one of Inc Magazine’s “Most Innovative Female Founders.” Not only is she an innovator with 6 patents; she also published a children’s book.
Quality of Life Technologies (QoLT) ERC–Class of 2006
Portia Taylor Singh (PhD BME, Carnegie Mellon University, 2007-2012) is a Senior Research Scientist at Philips Research North America. Her research focuses in the area of personal health and mobile health technologies. She develops solutions to help the elderly and people with chronic illness manage their health at home. Before coming to Philips in 2014, she was a research scientist in the Social Security Administration.
Portia Taylor Singh
 National Research Council (1986). The New Engineering Research Centers—Purposes, Goals, and Expectations. Report of theCross-Disciplinary Research Committee. National Research Council. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. p. 2. [https://doi.org/10.17226/616]
 National Academy of Engineering (1984). Guidelines for Engineering Research Centers: A Report to the National Science Foundation. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. [https://doi.org/10.17226/19472]
 The following section is a précis of his address that appears in the report on the Symposium: Schmitt, Roland W. (1986). “Engineering Research and International Competitiveness.” In The New Engineering Research Centers—Purposes, Goals, and Expectations, op. cit., pp. 19-27.
 George Low was a key member of the group who met with George Keyworth, President Reagan’s Science Advisor, to provide the core concepts that led to the recommendations for the Engineering Research Centers.
 Bozeman, Barry & Boardman, Craig (2004). The NSF Engineering Research Centers and the University-Industry Research Revolution: A Brief History Featuring an Interview with Erich Bloch. Journal of Technology Transfer, 29:365-375. p. 371.
 GAO (1988). Engineering Research Centers: NSF Program Management and Industry Sponsorship—Report to Congressional Requesters (GAO/RCED-88-177, August 1988). General Accounting Office: Washington, DC. p 48.
 NSF (1984), op. cit., pp. 1-2.
 Hackwood, Susan (1986). “Center for Robotic Systems in Microelectronics,” in The New Engineering Research Centers—Purposes, Goals, and Expectations, op. cit., p. 90.
 This type of program borders on the ERC becoming a job shop or industrial R&D lab for the firm.
 Schwartz, Mischa (1986). “Engineering Center for Telecommunications Research,” in The New Engineering Research Centers—Purposes, Goals, and Expectations, op. cit., pp. 100-105.
 R. Byron Pipes (1986). Center for Composites Manufacturing Science and Engineering,” in The New Engineering Research Centers—Purposes, Goals, and Expectations, op. cit., p. 94.
 Ibid., p. 98.
 Baras, John S. (1986). “Systems Research Center,” in The New Engineering Research Centers—Purposes, Goals, and Expectations, op. cit., pp. 71-72.
 Wang, Daniel I.C. (1986). “Biotechnology Process Engineering Center,” in The New Engineering Research Centers—Purposes, Goals, and Expectations, op. cit., pp. 106, 113.
 Fu, King-Sun, David C. Anderson, Moshe M. Barash, and James J. Solberg (1986). “Center for Intelligent Manufacturing Systems,” in The New Engineering Research Centers—Purposes, Goals, and Expectations, op. cit., pp. 84-85.
 Gray, Denis O. and S. George Walters (1998). Managing the Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers, a Guide for Directors and other Stakeholders. Columbus, Ohio: Battelle Press. p. 10. https://projects.ncsu.edu/iucrc/PurpleBook.htm
 Ibid., p. 75.
 Preston, Lynn and Ronald G. Havelock (1988). Knowledge and Technology Transfer from NSF-supported Centers and Laboratories to Smaller Businesses. Report to the U.S. Congress from the National Science Foundation, January 1988. p. 9.
 Engineering Centers Division (1991). The ERCs: A Partnership for Competitiveness, Report of a Symposium, February 28-March 1, 1990. Washington, DC: National Science Foundation. NSF 91-9. p. 2.
 Ibid., p. 40.
 GAO, op. cit., p. 12.
 GAO, op. cit., p. 47.
 Engineering Centers Division, op. cit., p. 41
 Gray and Walters. op. cit., p. 4.
 Ibid., p. 23.
 GAO (1988), op. cit., p. 30.
 Ibid., p. 12.
 Ibid., pp. 30-39.
 Ibid., pp. 54-55.
 Ibid., p. 55.
 Ibid., p. 57.
 Ibid., p. 39.
 GAO (1988), op. cit., pp. 47-48.
 Preston and Havelock, op. cit., p. 1.
 Ibid., p. 10.
 Ibid., p. 9.
 Ibid., p. i.
 Ibid., pp. 11-21.
 Engineering Research Centers Leverage History. Internal NSF document, June 29, 1999.
 Engineering Centers Division (1991). The ERCs: A Partnership for Competitiveness, Report of a Symposium, February 28-March 1, 1990. Washington, DC: Directorate for Engineering. National Science Foundation. NSF 91-9. Adapted from Figure 4-3, p. 43.
 Preston, Lynn (1992). NSF Partnerships with Industry and Academe: Report of the NSF Industrial Programs Coordinating Committee to the Director of the National Science Foundation. Washington, DC.: National Science Foundation Internal Report, August 1992, pp 1-3.
 Engineering Centers Division, op. cit., p. 41.
 Ibid., p. 42.
 Ibid., p. 42.
 Ibid., p. 42.
 Ibid., p. 42.
 This section reflects a blend of Preston’s current insights and those voiced by the participants in the 1990 symposium. The original guidance is found on pages 43-44 of the Symposium document referenced above.
 Lewis, Courtland S. and James E. Williams, Jr. (2010). Post-Graduation Status of National Science Foundation Engineering Research Centers, a Report of a Survey of Graduated ERCs. Melbourne, FL: SciTech Communications, LLC.
 Roessner, J. David, David W. Cheney, H.R. Coward (2004). Impact on Industry of Interactions with Engineering Research Centers – Repeat Study, Summary Report. SRI International (P11537). December 2004, p. i.
 Rust, Carl A (2003). “Role of the Industrial Liaison Officer.” Presentation to the 2003 ERC Annual Meeting.
 The PRC’s IAB Chair at that time was Dr. Johnston (John) Peeples, Assistant Vice President of Technology at NCR/AT&T and later Electrical and Computer Department Head at The Citadel. He had previously performed SWOT analyses on many projects and organizations at NCR/AT&T and brought that experience to evaluation of the PRC. This is a good example of how industrial best practices were often brought to improve the management, communication, and efficiency of ERCs.
 Summarized from Attachment A, Excerpt from NSF/ERC Cooperative Agreement, contained in Branca, Andrew, James MacBain, Erik Sander, Carl Rust (2000). Guidelines for ERC Industrial Membership Agreements.
 Summarized from Branca, op. cit., pp. 1-17.
 Parker, Linda (1997). The Engineering Research Centers (ERC) Program: An Assessment of Benefits and Outcomes. Arlington, VA:Engineering Education and Centers Division: National Science Foundation. NSF 98-40. December 1997, p. i.
 Fitzsimmons, Stephen J., Oren Grad, Bhavya Lal, and Ken Carlson (1996). Job Performance of Graduate Engineers Who Participated in the NSF Engineering Research Centers (ERC) Program. NSF Contract 94-131561 (3), September 1996. Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates.
 Roessner (2004), op. cit.
 Parker, op. cit., p. 4.
 Ibid., pp. 6-7.
 Roessner, op. cit., p. 28.
 Fitzsimmons et al. (1996), op. cit., p. iii.
 Ibid., pp. iii-iv.
 Ibid., p. 72.
 Ibid., Appendix C, Question 21 response.
 Ibid., p. 76.
 Ibid. Appendix C., Question 30 response.
Roessner et al. (2004), op. cit., p. 28.
 Parker, op. cit., p. ii.
 Ibid., p. 11.
 Roessner, op. cit., p. 1.
 Ibid., p. 27.
 QRC (2000). 2000_Outputs1, slide 1.
 The case became public and details of the charges and sentence appeared in the press in Wisconsin. See https://digital.bentley.umich.edu/midaily/mdp.39015071755016/211
 Palmintera, Diane (2008). “Technology Transfer and Commercialization Partnerships,” Presentation to the National Science Foundation, January 2008 (slides 5-6). Innovation Associates, Reston, Virginia.
 Ratner, Buddy (2004). “White Paper: Thoughts on the ERC System and Industry Involvement (with special emphasis on the Bio ERCs).” Seattle, WA: University of Washington, Engineered Biomaterials (UWEB), p. 2.
 Ibid., p. 4.
 Roessner, op. cit., p. 20.
 Peterson, Thomas W. (2009). “NSF Perspective on Translational Research.” Presentation to the Annual Meeting of the American Institute for Medical and Biomedical Engineering, Washington, DC. February 2009. Slide 2.
 Jackson, Deborah (2007). Summary of Translational Research Grants (internal memorandum). National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA: 2007. p. 1.
 Kazanzides, P., Chen, Z., Duguet, A., Fischer, G. S., Taylor, R. S., & DiMaio, S. P. (2014). “An Open-Source Research Kit for the da Vinci Surgical System.” In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics & Automation, Hong Kong, China, 31 May-7 June 2014 (pp. 6434-6439). (see also https://github.com/jhu-dvrk/sawIntuitiveResearchKit/wiki)
 NSF (2006). Engineering Research Centers (ERC): Partnerships in Transforming Research, Education and Technology. Program Solicitation NSF 07-521, posted November 13, 2006.
 Peterson, op. cit., slide 16.
 Ibid., p. 2.
 Ibid., p. 7.
 A 2004 report on the economic impact of the Georgia Tech-based Packaging Research Center on the State of Georgia had an impact in turn on the Gen-3 innovation ecosystem construct. It presented clear evidence that State and/or local government investments in ERCs and translational research facilities could result in startups, small company competitiveness, job creation, large companies hiring students, and other positive economic outcomes. See Roessner, J. David, Sushanta Mohapatra, and Quindi Franco (2004). The Economic Impact of Georgia Tech’s Packaging Research Center. Atlanta, GA: Georgia Research Alliance, October 2004.
 NSF (2006), op. cit., p. 14.
 Jackson, Deborah L. (2010). “Research to Reality: Developing the Innovation Ecosystem.” Presented at the ERC Annual Meeting, Bethesda MD, December 2, 2010, slide 2.
 Jackson, Deborah (2011). Internal NSF presentation on Gen-3 Translational Research Policy, slide 2.
 Ibid. slide 3.
 Ibid. slide 4.
 Sander, Erik (2013). ERC Best Practices Manual, Chapter 5, Industrial Collaboration and Innovation. pp. 5-25. [See http://erc-assoc.org/content/chapter-5-industrial-collaboration-and-innovation]
 NSF (2011). Program Solicitation, Gen-3 Engineering Research Centers (ERC): Partnerships in Transformational Research, Education, and Technology, Fiscal Year 2011. Directorate for Engineering, National Science Foundation, NSF 84-11.537. p 9.
 Ibid., p. 11.
 Ibid., p. 19.
 Jackson, Deborah J. (2012). “What is an Innovation Ecosystem?” National Science Foundation: Arlington, VA, 2012 (http://erc-assoc.org/docs/innovation_ecosystem.pdf)
 Sander, op. cit.
 Ibid., pp. 5-28.
 Ibid., 5-23.
 Williams, James E., Jr. and Courtland S. Lewis (2010), op. cit., p. 1.
 Ibid., p. 3.
 Williams, James E., Jr. (2010). Study of Sustainability of Graduated NSF ERCs, Presented to the ERC Annual Meeting in 2010. Slide 9.
 Sanders, op. cit., p. 5-5
 Ibid., p. 5-3
 Lewis, Courtland S. (2010). Engineering Research Centers Innovations: ERC-Generated Commercialized Products, Processes, and Startups. SciTech Communications LLC: Melbourne, FL.
Seoane, Peter (2012). “IAB Involvement in ERCs: Assessing and Strengthening the Role.” Presentation at the NSF ERC Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, November 2012. It is also summarized in the ILO Best Practices Chapter, pp. 5-37.
 ERCs are not degree-granting units. ERC students receive their degrees from a participating department, college, or school at the ERC’s lead or partner institution.