It is awards time for AACC and the Academy. I was thrilled and excited when I received the call from the AACC President, Michael Bennett, informing me that I would receive AACC’s 2017 Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award. The Academy’s ‘Scientific Shorts’ team asked me to reflect upon this accomplishment and share some thoughts. At the same time I was working on a presentation for the SYCL workshop on the creation of impactful business relationships. These two requests caused me to reflect on a very important partnership that helped shape my career. I hope you find this insight valuable.
The management literature is rich in studies and data outlining the critical elements of a successful business relationship, and other articles specifically focused on academia and industry partnership. As published in a 2008 report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and a three-year MIT study, it boils down to the following: A shared vision that clearly defines goals and provides a framework for decision-making, identified leaders who can work across traditional boundaries, use of effective communication tools, clear agreement on intellectual property ownership, and an investment in a long term relationship with shared risks and accountabilities. In addition to these findings, the human or personal side of the partnership is also critical. You can find many articles on the importance of a leader’s ‘EI’ or Emotional Intelligence. I have found all this to be true first hand. In attempts at partnership and collaboration that failed, one or more of the critical elements was missing. I have also found that the softer more personal side of a relationship is just as essential as the science, technology, and a good contract.
I have enjoyed a career-long professional/personal relationship that began with a discussion to evaluate a family of antibodies for an assay I was developing. This was a simple straightforward project with a clear objective and goal. The project was a success but what occurred next was even more valuable. Mutual respect and trust was established and became the foundation for a multi-year co-development collaboration partnership that had a very positive impact for all involved and continued on between the two organizations long after I moved on. A series of successful immunoassays were co-developed and commercialized. The process created an opportunity for academic and industry scientists to work together to create assays that made a difference and provided new information to aid in diagnosis and treatment. Although the business partnership ended for me when I moved on in my career, the personal and professional relationship with the individuals involved in the original collaboration continues to thrive today and have had a very positive impact on my career.
Why was this partnership so successful when many others fell short? My thoughts: We started with clear goals and objectives. We established a business relationship with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, a governance process for decision-making, and a clear understanding of intellectual property ownership. We worked together in a true collaboration sharing successes and challenges. We adapted based on the science and the market needs. But most importantly we wanted a successful outcome for each other. We liked working together and we established trust and mutual respect. We got to know each other, built friendships, and genuinely cared about each other. In the end, the science was essential but it was the individuals involved in the partnership that made the real difference.
- Janet Corzo, “How Academic Institutions Partner with Private Industry”, R&D Magazine, April 20, 2015
- Markus Perkman and Ammon Salter, “How to Create Productive Partnerships with Universities”, MIT Sloan Management Review, Summer 2012.
- Diane Coutu, “Making Relationships Work” Harvard Business Review, December 2007.
- Andrea Ovans, “How Emotional Intelligence Became a Key Leadership Skill”, Harvard Business Review, April 28, 2016