A Tech product that aims to bridge the void between Industry and Academia.
So it is important to consider all options, especially those in the biotech/pharma/healthcare industry. More importantly, it is imperative that unless we start to train fewer PhDs every year, we need to prepare PhDs for the current job market. Otherwise, you may find yourself unemployed with a gap on your resume, or working a post-doctoral position into your late 30’s.
Today, businesses are looking for innovative solutions from academia to help meet their business needs of higher productivity and lower costs, yet increase efficiencies. In the area of talent, the US has to strengthen its technical and management resources as these are crucial to knowledge-based industries.
A market-driven approach to higher education has to be fostered in order to encourage manpower development from the grass-root level itself. The idea is to involve the private sector in higher education.
Working with industry has several benefits:
- Relevance. You know the research problem posed is one that genuinely needs solving, and the industrial partner for any solution you may develop is already engaged.
- Funding. Once you begin to work with an industry partner, the prospect of getting funding is much higher than in most competitive grant applications and the amount available may be defined by the extent of the problem, not the limit of a particular funding call.
- Intellectual capital. Most of the industry people you will be dealing with are also scientists, and they are just as clever, or far cleverer, than you (or me). They will have defined goals but also have the same scientific curiosity which can be harnessed within the project.
- Flexibility. If you have embarked on the project and you find you have gone down a blind alley, it is usually possible to have a discussion with your partners and change the project design. You don’t have to go back to the funders for permission to adjust the dreaded Gantt chart and ‘deliverables’ or have to justify to grant reviewers why you have gone off track. If a project extension is required you can often simply argue for it, no need to write a new grant, and experience the inevitable downtime ‘between funding’.
- Urgency. Working with a student or a post-doc on a problem can be exciting, but sometimes a good or a bad result seems important only to the two of you. It really adds urgency when an industry meeting is looming on the horizon, when you know the funders are directly invested in the outcomes of the experiments, and when the pressure really builds on the team. In these moments some intense brainstorming and problem-solving can be required, which can create a real sense of excitement within the project and which can be a tremendous learning experience for junior members of the team.
- Career development. Most of the students and postdocs in the lab will not end up in academia, nor should they. It is valuable training for young ones to have first-hand exposure to industry-based science so that they can make an informed choice on their next step in their career.
It is common to hear from industry, “Why are academics so insular?” And alternatively from academia, “Why is a business so short-sighted?”
The stereotypes fit in some cases, but I like to think that there’s a simpler way to understand how the two worlds differ in terms of the “punctuation marks” that define the desired outcomes of the two crafts. I focus on four of those punctuation marks here to identify the general difference between academia and industry of “long-term” horizon versus “short-term” horizon thinking, but also offer the “RISD difference” within this simple vocabulary of marks.
ACADEMIA VS INDUSTRY
In academia, there is the luxury of time. Thus when a thought might start, it doesn’t necessarily have to finish. You can begin … and not necessarily end. It is this kind of open-mindedness that makes academia a necessary space of free thought in the world.
The free space is a necessary inefficiency designed into the academic system so that new thoughts can form in the most productive manner — which is through the natural reinforcement of the passage of time.
In industry, it’s important to be heard. Speaking up is critical for an individual’s or idea’s survival. I really can’t. So what do you do? And you still hope to get heard. By your boss, of course. Or even better by your boss’s boss.
If Darwin were to observe what usually happens in the industry, I would think he would conclude that those with the largest larynx the biggest fists and with the greatest cunning are guaranteed the next level of survival to the next round of The Apprentice.