This article is published in the June 2022 issue.

Building Stronger Regional Academia-Industry-Government Computing Research Partnerships

roundtableIn April 2022, CRA-Industry held its third roundtable event focused on Building Stronger Regional Academia-Industry-Government Computing Research Partnerships. The purpose of this roundtable was to convene partners across academia, industry, and government to understand successful approaches and to discuss the value of partnerships and best practices. The session was moderated by two members of the CRA-Industry steering committee: Mary Hall (University of Utah) and Ben Zorn (Microsoft). The panelists were Erwin Gianchandani (National Science Foundation), Charles Isbell (Georgia Institute of Technology), Greg King (Georgia Institute of Technology), and Phyllis Schneck (Northrop Grumman). In order to pinpoint success and call out specific interactions, the moderators decided to pick academia, industry, and government speakers from one city. Atlanta is known for their close partnerships among academia and industry so it was an easy guinea pig for this roundtable.

Due to what Charles Isbell called the city’s well developed and maintained ecosystem, it is clear that the strength of Atlanta’s partnerships is because of their collaborative nature. Isbell distinguished between partnerships and ecosystems, where a partnership is a one time transactional relationship and an ecosystem builds a long term relationship on which many collaborations can develop due to the trust that it creates. Greg King hypothesized that this multisector collaboration goes back decades.  One of the most visible examples is the teamwork that led to the 1996 Summer Olympics being held in Atlanta and the culture it created in the city 25 years ago. The city, in preparation for the Olympics, looked for areas to improve and realized that in order for the investments to make an impact they needed many partners bringing their best – this included Georgia Tech, the private sector and the city of Atlanta. This collaborative culture has continued and has led to the thriving tech hub ecosystem, home now to some of the fastest growing startups, that Atlanta is known for today.

Within this ecosystem, Phyllis Schneck emphasized the importance of convening. Convening together around a common idea or goal is very powerful. Academic departments are natural conveners and can nurture these academia, industry, and government relationships by bringing in industry or government experts into projects or reaching out to those in the community to come teach guest lectures. You can bring everyone together, as Erwin Gianchandani said, if you offer the right projects and everyone has an openness and willingness to work together. He remarked that these broad potential projects can engage the community and create socio-technical solutions where everyone can learn from one another while benefiting the ecosystem and growing the community. But they do require building trust among the stakeholders, which takes time, dedication, and commitment.

CRA-Industry would like to keep the momentum from this roundtable going. A similar event highlighting another city and its academia, industry, and government partnerships would be beneficial to the computer science research community. If you are interested in organizing one for your city, please email the CRA-Industry leadership (​​