The fruits of university-industry linkages and academic entrepreneurship are obvious in the developed world. This collaboration has started in the 1800s, grownup to a significant level in the 1900s, and matured now.

By Rahmat Ullah

These three hundred years of collaborations have been transformed into a culture of academics linkages with the market. This culture is now backed by a high level of trust, policy interventions, incentive system, and capacity to deliver an equal level of interest and understanding by both academia and industry. 

 The Profeneurship 

 Profeneurship is the process in which the professors act as profeneurs to commercialize their academic works like an entrepreneur. The profeneurs involve themselves in activities beyond teaching and research to generate some socioeconomic impact. The profeneurs bring efficiency in converting science into humanly useful products and services when they are made part of the economic benefits generated from the science commercialization. 

 The university scientists demonstrate their profeneurship in various modes like

  •  Doing consultancy to address some issues or solve problems 
  • Develop short solutions for ongoing problems and practices 
  • Improve product or process 
  • Identify new growth areas and business diversification 
  • Assess industry performance and contribute to growth planning 
  • Lenience out patents and copyrights to industry 
  • Starting own ventures 

 The Developing Word’s Phenomenon 

 The scientists of the developing world like Pakistan having exposure to the experience of the advanced world try to engage with the market. The scientists get frustrated after failing in industry collaborations and inability to deliver like in the advanced world. They wish to contribute and ignored the fundamental cultural and institutional differences between advanced countries and their developing countries. They generally face the following problems:

  •  Zero acceptance of novel ideas by local market 
  • No experience in dealing with industrial practices and problems 
  • Inability to plan incremental R&D 
  • Not-viability of their produced technology 
  • Absence of capital funding for innovative projects 
  • Uncompetitiveness of their produced innovation 
  • Only lab results and lack of piloting and production experimentation 

 The profeneurship in the developing world needs to be supported through business rules and principles 

 The Governance of Profeneurship 

 The author has spent the last active 15 years in university-industry engagement. The experience includes engagement with more than 100 real technology projects, more than 1000 discussion meetings, policy workshops, training sessions, and consultations, more than 30 technology expo and innovation summits, a study of more than 100 entrepreneurial scientists, and various national and international interventions to drive university-industry linkages. The author has published books and articles on the subject and provided training also. 

 Understanding of University-Industry Dynamics 

 The scientists and industry should not ink a technology contract at the start. The technology promise without significant engagement is destined to fail. There should be a minimum of 2-3 years of pre-technology engagement to understand each other and prove some usefulness. Here are five rules of understanding for profeneurship. 

  •  Spend significant time in industry meetings and activities 
  • Understand the dynamics of competition and profit-making 
  • Understand market trends present and future
  • Understand the level of technology acceptance and diffusion capability 
  • Understand investment trends and country regulations for the industry 

 The following 09 governance rules of profeneurship are devised to support industry-academia engagement based on this extensive experience and scholarly literature.  

 The Engagement Phase 

 Engagement in Non-Tech 

 The scientists must start from the non-tech engagements and make some contribution to building trust and confidence. This will save the reputation of scientists and prevent any risk in high-tech commitment. There are numerous opportunities in the industry to contribute to the non-tech engagement category. Here are five rules of non-tech engagement for profeneurship. 

 1.1. Offer volunteer services in non-tech engagement

1.2. Find the opportunity of small contribution like testing, training, referral, certification, etc 

1.3. Bring industry to university frequently for exposure and thoughts sharing 

1.4. Make proactive and timely communication to inspire trust 

1.5. Prove your humble contribution to the industry and society 

  1.  Engagement through Students 

The scientists of academia have the privilege of employing students for smart industrial works. They can design students’ internships and projects in collaboration with industry fellows in non-tech and non-critical areas for humble contributions. The scientists and students both will gain rich experience of industry insights and build their capacities for future high-paid technology engagements. The students will better secure their jobs through good performance in internships and projects assignment. Here are five rules of students’ internships with industry. 

 2.1. The internship needs to be planned, governed by the faculty, assessed, and reported  

2.2. The students must be trained to follow times, tasks, and working rules of the industry

2.3. The industry trade secret and faculty intellectual property to be protected by signing NDA  

2.4. The remuneration, deliverables, and performance indicators to be planned 

2.5. The students’ internship must be supported by university labs and faculty inputs actively 

  1.  Engagement through Analytical Research 

 There is a significant scope of analytical, testing and planning works in the industry. The scientists must target these low-hanging fruits to build industry orientation, capacity to find a potential problem, and develop solutions. This is the zero-risk area where scientific analysis and allied works can improve industry life and develop the trust of both parties in each other. Here are five rules of analytical engagements with industry and society. 

3.1. Make frequent conversations with industry middle management to gauge the needs 

3.2. Explore bottleneck and hurdles in the industry business 

3.3. Offer analysis, planning, policy, and advocacy services to industry 

3.4. Ensure timely delivery of committed tasks with proactive communication 

3.5. Ensure confidentiality of industry information and identity 

 The Development Phase 

  1.  Development of Diffusion Capability

The developing world cannot seriously absorb and diffuse innovations and high-tech products. The technology diffusion rate is very low in developing countries. The scientists trained in advanced universities become irrelevant to the local industry due to poor diffusion capacity. Their scientists need to improve diffusion capabilities and prepare the industry to accept new ideas and technologies. Here are five rules of developing technology diffusion capability in the industry.  

4.1. Offer training to management on benefits of technology and university engagement 

4.2. Share technology cases of foreign companies having a good return on investment 

4.3. Share technology options with having a large market and proven solutions 

4.4. Pilot some technology-led growth in small pockets of industry business 

4.5. Develop some feasibility plans for technology interventions and good returns 

5.  Development of Contracts and Joint Venture (JVs) 

The fast track of technology for local industry is always to import technology. The industry also makes growth through joint ventures with foreign technology partners. Scientists can develop strong bonds by helping in technology joint ventures and import contracts. The scientists can help the industry to license out high-value patents and monetize them quickly. Here are five rules of technology contracts and JVs facilitation. 

5.1. Offer technology import consultancy to industry 

5.2. Explore high-value technology with foreign companies 

5.3. Analyze good market size and technology viability 

5.4. Understand regulations, certification, and critical specifications

5.5. Gain maximum capability of technology and plan substitution 

6.1. Development of New Applications 

The industry always has some strengths in terms of product formulations, processes, plants, and tacit knowledge in that area. Quick commercialization can be through new applications of available technology resources in the industry. The scientists can investigate the new application area and pathways to venture into new fields and markets with the same resource mix. 

Here are five rules of new applications for available technology strength. 

6.1. Offer consultancy to develop new applications of industry tech resources  

6.2. Explore smart areas of quick commercialization 

6.3. Pilot your project to prove financial gains from new applications 

6.4. Sign NDA to protect industry secrets and academic IPs

6.5. Develop a mix of science and engineering understanding for effective application 

 The Technology Phase 

7. Technology for Process Optimization

The scientists of the universities need to target process improvement before the product to gain maximum experience of industrial production. The process improvement is a relatively easy, less costly, and low-risk intervention. The process improvement can be quickly monetized and replicated. Here are five rules of process optimization.

7.1. Spend scheduled and regular time for on job study of the process 

7.2. Develop the economics of the present and target process 

7.3.Always plan 2-3 routs of process optimization 

7.4. Develop the technical and financial viability of the new process 

7.5. Explore replication of new techniques in other factory settings 

8. Technology for Product Development  

Product development is a very competitive and high-risk area. The scientists must start incremental R&D for product improvement and move to new product development. The product development must in emerging areas and not in the matured and saturated areas. Here are five rules of product-related R&D. 

8.1. Plan the incremental R&D to mitigate maximum risk 

8.2. Consider production possibilities and plan fabrication before product selection 

8.3. Understand regulations, testing, and certification requirements 

8.4. Analyze sales potential, investment requirements, payback, and breakeven

8.5. Ensure repeat and consistent product of the improved or new product 

9. Technology for Disruption 

Bringing a disruptive technology in the market is a high-risk high-reward area. This requires a substantial amount of experience, technology insights, financial backing, and capability to withstand the market shocks. Here are five rules of disruptive technologies for the developing world.

9.1.Disruptive technology must be financed through state funding and venture funding and not by bank, credit, or short terms financing.  

9.2.Disruptive technology to be planned for long terms 5-10 years 

9.3.Disruptive technology to be offered in a niche market to experience acceptance and adaptability 

9.4.Incremental improvements and modifications to be planned to ensure alignment with market needs 

9.5.Disruptive technology to be offered through new business models and supply channels to outcast from the competition 

10 Steps of University-Industry Collaboration  

  1. Appoint a responsible authority to ensure consistent engagement 
  2. Identify workable and viable project to start 
  3. Plan roles of each team from academy and industry to perform and financial rewards 
  4. Set achievable R&D target in a certain time with measurable indicators 
  5. Plan R&D tasks and phases as by university, jointly by university and industry, and by industry only 
  6. Plan expenses, payment sources, and financial reward in case of success 
  7. Get the approval of competent authorities of both parties with the commitment for resources 
  8. Begin with the low-risk project and start execution as soon as possible 
  9. Write and share a progress report with top management of both side 
  10. Plan exit and quit the project if timelines are followed 


The academic contribution to the industry and society is part of the culture in the advanced world. The scientists of the developing world are trying to achieve the same in their countries too. The absence of enabling environments like policies, training, venture funding, and other environmental factors hinders the successful university-industry linkages. We devised these governance rules to help scientists in developing countries exercise profeneurship and grow as profeneurs. The developed profeneurship culture will boost socioeconomic growth and help countries to achieve sustainable development goals.

Author: Rahmat Ullah, Chief Executive, Institute of Research Promotion- (IRP) and Director Center for Innovation and Competitiveness Studies, USKT.