Corporate and Foundation Relations: A Partner in University-affiliated Gap Funding


The era of innovation-directed corporate and foundation relations is here.

At its recent annual meeting, the Network of Academic Corporate Relations Officers (NACRO) benchmarking committee released a report identifying key metrics and impact measures for corporate relations offices: Full Report Here

This builds off previous work in which the group identified five, major elements of leading CR groups:

  • Institutional Support
  • Focus on Mutual Benefits
  • Single-point of Entry for Industry
  • Integrated R&D
  • Cross-Campus Coordination

In short, leaders of these units should consider any programs that coordinate the campus and industrial partners around points of mutual benefit  — like R&D, faculty expertise, and future talent–a strategic imperative.

We have assessed these leading CFR practices since 2006 and will be releasing a roadmap this fall that assesses possible futures for university corporate and foundation relationship units and how they can best lead in an era of innovation. One such area, with powerful momentum, is in the practice of university-affiliated gap funding of university technology and start-ups


You should care about university-affiliated gap funding.

CFR units should look at gap funding programs (and associated faculty, student, community support programs) as a viable, campus-wide approach to integrated R&D and commercialization. These funds have traditional sprouted out of university royalty revenues, central budgets, and through external partnerships; however, our most recent report of 63 funds shows a strong move to individual and corporate donations and endowments as a major source for the formation and sustainability of these funds.


What’s more is that leading funds are set up to engage every corner of campus in the innovation and commercialization process. What does this mean? It means that they touch faculty, students, research centers, corporations, investors, and alumni.

They create an exciting target for funding and a source for future donors if done right. They also position your unit as a strong ally of the fund manager (often the tech transfer unit or incubators)


Assume your role.

Corporate and foundation relations units can be the gateway to the source of these funds and continued relationship building.

Timing with larger campaigns, managing expectations of leadership, and adding new skill sets are all hurdles to really incorporating corporate and foundation relations with this activity.

But one thing is for certain. Leading universities are finding a way to make it happen, work through tensions, and create a campus collaboration vehicle that can fuel innovation.

Here is one example from the University of Rochester Medical Center (from our recent iWorkshop on Managing the Fund Process). It nicely highlights the route, tensions, and opportunities for this tech transfer and advancement office collaboration for the Technology Development Fund.

If interested, check out our final iWorkshop on Raising and Sustaining Funds. This is a very important topic for CFR units if they want to look into this leading practice

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