How to Engage Industry with Academic Innovation: Guest Post

Engaging industry with content – written, audio and visual - for the purposes of knowledge exchange or research commercialisation, is a key activity for all tech-transfer departments. Approaches for engagement are varied, and the most longstanding technique of face-to-face meetings naturally works best.

Engaging industry with content – written, audio and visual - for the purposes of knowledge exchange or research commercialisation, is a key activity for all tech-transfer departments. Approaches for engagement are varied, and the most longstanding technique of face-to-face meetings naturally works best. However, this practice is unscalable, and unfeasible for technology emanating from esoteric research. This is where an effective marketing strategy can be employed to develop broader networks and deeper degrees of engagement.

It has become common knowledge that central ‘post-and-hope’ repositories of technology are not enough to snare industry eyes (except for the most patient technology scout). Owing to this, increasing importance is being placed upon the effective marketing of collaboration and commercialisation opportunities, and the roles that newly available tools play.

The goal seems simple: get the relevant people in industry to review your offering. However, the path taken to ensure your opportunity lands on the desk of the right person, in the right company, is one worth negotiating well.

Stimulating industry engagement is something the team at IN-PART has been performing successfully for the past three years. As such, the number of universities using our system has risen from 6 to 75, and the number of verified industry users interacting now numbers over 3000. Effective marketing is at the core of this, and has led to over 70% of all content being subject to at least one or more expressions of interest by senior decision-makers from industry.

There are several approaches we’ve seen universities across the UK and US use successfully to help in marketing technology. This September I spoke about these approaches and our own experiences at PraxisUnico’s analogous event in Australia, Knowledge Commercialisation Australia (KCA). Below are some of the points most important for technology-transfer professionals to be aware of when marketing one-page opportunity summaries to industry partners:


The title of your opportunity

Be aware of reader interest.

If you have a unique technology with IP, fantastic, your pitch can be honed and made into something exciting and interesting to your respective sector. However, if you have a Centre of Excellence (CoE), a facility, or services available for use by industry, it’s worth experimenting with titles and thinking: “if I were reading this, would it be interesting?”

That’s not to say it wouldn’t be, but when it comes to stimulating engagement, it is far better to focus on key offerings. For example there might be some specialist equipment for use, undoubtedly excellent in-house expertise, or use of the facility in a thriving industry sector, or known problem area; possibly there’s a case study to point to, or a publication emanating from the centre’s collaborative efforts.

As an example, a “Centre of Excellence in Mass-Spectrometry” might be seeking new industry partners. Using the name of the centre is not going to arouse much interest, unless they’re in the local vicinity and in need of the service, in which case you’ll likely know them. So instead differentiate the offer from other CoEs in MS, and focus on something to pique a sector’s interest, e.g. “Identifying unique peptides in autoimmune conditions”.


Packaging your opportunity

Once you have decided upon your title, focus the content around some key headings.

We’ve found the following to be the most important for industry when deciding whether to reach out:

Ø  Benefits – especially when it comes to current technology already on the market (why is yours better?)

Ø  USPs – if these are not already obvious within your benefits section, make them abundantly clear here.

Ø  Data – a single representative figure, clearly illustrated and referenced in the text. If available, mention that “further non-confidential information is available upon request”, if certain key points may be overlooked.

Ø  The Opportunity – what is it you’re seeking: licensing, investment, a strategic partner, etc.

Ø  Imagery – Aside from the data figure, having an eye-catching header works well. Avoid stereotypical imagery (e.g. ‘a computer’ for software, ‘a pipetting scientist’ for… anything within Life Sciences); stimulating intrigue is key.


Identifying companies and industry partners of interest

The best route to building relationships is through conferencing and effective partnering. As a company we attend conferences based upon the networking time available, and if they have a professional meeting scheduler.

LinkedIn is the new cold-calling, but in the same breath, picking up the phone is an increasingly valued interaction that should not be overlooked for easily dismissible emails.

If you want to go one further, invest in a CRM system that includes sales tracking. In addition, having academics input their own industry contacts is of great value. However, feedback tells us that often academics (unfortunately) see their collaborators as a resource not to be shared.



From your CRM, target only those who are likely to be interested. Avoid shotgun-approach emails to your entire contact list, the technology soon gets viewed as ‘second hand’ and its novelty instantly fades.

When contacting your hit-list, use an email client with interaction tracking. This can provide metrics for email ‘opens’ and link ‘clicks’, so you can see if you’re gaining traction and engagement.

Another route if you opt not to use an email client, is to utilise sites like, where tractable URLs can be generated.


Process your data, and action next steps

Key to all of the above is proper analysis of interactions, and then the follow-up.

Most universities will have an area to host their own technology, and whilst our opinion is that these are largely un/under-used by those simply browsing (SEO optimisation is likely going to have zero effect, unless the page is hosted on, et al), at least you can see if there’s a spike in readers after a recent campaign or conference. Have Google Analytics set-up to do this.

Check your open stats for those within your CRM, and schedule in follow-ups for those interacting (most deals are done on the 3rd, 4th or 5th follow-up, people are just busy, not necessarily uninterested!).

With all of the tools available out there, there’s no substitute for proactive engagement and an efficient and replicable approach to community engagement. At IN-PART we undertake proactive and strategic outreach, successfully bringing new industry partners to university TTOs, but the conversion of those leads into new relationships relies upon fastidious and knowledgeable team members eager to see the translation of research into usable technology.