NORDP Liaison Report: Network of Academic Corporate Relations Officers (NACRO)

RD professionals and corporate relations officers advance research when they work together

Companies need things from universities: graduates, access to facilities, access to intellectual capital. Universities need things from companies: jobs for graduates, help with commercialization, funding.

Universities’ corporate relations officers help connect companies with universities, but they may lack deep knowledge of the research landscape. They may not know about the promising postdoctoral fellow’s innovation to transform the field, the unique core facility to address a testing need, or the multidisciplinary team to work with on a large proposal. That’s why research development and corporate relations make a great team: their complementary expertise is a natural area for collaboration to strengthen the research enterprise.

This is where the relationship between NORDP and NACRO comes in.

Don Takehara, NORDP’s NACRO Liaison

NORDP’s Strategic Alliances Committee (SAC) has been engaging with NACRO for several years, exploring the natural synergies between these two university functions. NORDP’s volunteer liaison responsibility is shifting to Don Takehara, Associate Director for Research, College of Engineering Office of Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

With more than 500 members, NACRO provides professional development and best practices related to university-industry corporate relations. “As higher education plays an increasing role in economic development, and in light of the challenging fiscal environment in which many of our institutions operate, it is more important than ever for colleges and universities to create and maintain dynamic relationships with business and industry,” the NACRO website declares.

In support of his RD role, Takehara has been a member of NACRO for eight years, even before he joined NORDP. He recently agreed to take over the NACRO liaison responsibilities previously held by NORDP Board member Rachel Dresbeck, who is a co-chair of SAC.

The relationship between the two organizations began in ­2017, when Dresbeck and NORDP Board member Peggy Sundermeyer presented on research development at the NACRO conference in Seattle and met with the NACRO Board to explore how the two organizations could work together . 

“This partnership with NACRO fits well into SAC’s strategic priorities by strengthening our reciprocal relationships with sister organizations. We now have a memorandum of understanding between the two groups, providing benefits such as complementary registrations at conferences. Our work informs one another and provides a type of competitive intelligence for both groups,” Dresbeck says.

Serving as a SAC liaison has also benefitted Dresbeck’s own RD work, helping her institution initiate new relationships with local businesses, both large and small. She encourages NORDP members to take advantage of this partnership with NACRO, which can help them work more effectively with their own corporate and foundation development colleagues.

Takehara echoes the benefits of RD professionals engaging with NACRO and their own universities’ corporate and foundation staff. “It’s important for corporate relations and research development members of the two groups to learn how to work better together,” he says.

An example of joint activity includes presentations at the 2018 NORDP Conference in Arlington, where Dresbeck and Eileen Murphy, Kerry Morris (both NACRO and NORDP members), as well as NACRO member Brett Burns presented case studies on the value of working together.  Murphy and Morris have been instrumental in deepening this important relationship. The following year, NACRO’s Co-presidents, Megan Greenawalt from the University of Pittsburgh and Adam Johnson from the Michigan Technological University, led the Leadership Forum at the NORDP 2019 Annual Research Development Conference. And following that, NORDP’s 2019 Great Lakes Regional Meeting, chaired by Jill Jividen and Beth LaPensee, included three sessions about RD and corporate relations and was led by Takehara.  Sessions included center directors discussing how to engage industry partners on large-scale proposals, corporate executives explaining how to engage industry in research initiatives, and a corporate relations panel discussing their perspectives on RD.

Many resources on the NACRO website are significant to strong RD strategy. For example, Takehara served the NACRO Industry Perspectives Subcommittee for its “Research Report: “Industry Perspective on Academic Corporate Relations” that can be found here.

More information on NACRO and the NORDP Liaison program can be found on the SAC liaison page, including a NACRO “Profile” link with members-only information for NORDP members. For more information about serving as a NORDP Liaison, please contact Karen Eck,  who serves as SAC co-chair, along with Dresbeck, Gretchen Kiser, and Ann Maglia.

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