Our Center seeks to maximize the impact of its research via interactions with industry and national laboratories. In consultation with our Industrial Liaison Committee we have developed a highly effective set of programs for industrial outreach and knowledge transfer. In addition, the University of Chicago’s role operating ANL for the Department of Energy has facilitated a close partnership with Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) that leverages reciprocal strengths at both institutions.
Our programs in this area have two principal aims:
- the wide and fast dissemination of the Center's discoveries and practical innovations, exposure of MRSEC investigators to industrial research and technologies, and development of new opportunities for industrially relevant materials research; and
- to provide first-hand opportunities for MRSEC students and postdocs to interact with industry researchers.
We do not, in general, expect to solve industry’s immediate problems, but rather to provide a foundation for defining and solving the next generation of problems, to serve as a resource for those seeking assistance with current problems, and to train the people who will enable companies to create their own solutions. Our program, therefore, extends beyond academic research and training to encompass a framework for communication and partnership. Key components of these programs are:
Meetings and Symposia
The Center sponsors and organizes one to two large scientific meetings each year. Each meeting addresses an important and current scientific theme that is chosen because it either represents an important example of the relation between fundamental science and commercial opportunities or because it provides a forum to consider new IRG opportunities within the Center. The meetings are organized by Center senior investigators and take one of two formats. Symposia are one-day meetings that address topics of industrial interest and take place at the University's downtown Business School Campus. Meetings in the other format, locally referred to as workshops, run from one to several days and are held on the main campus and address substantial scientific issues in a materials-related field.
The Center has pioneered an innovative program to expose graduate students to product development activities. Directed by Frenzen from Chicago's Booth School of Business, the Management Lab is a cross-listed academic course in which teams of MRSEC and Booth students form a team to solve a specific industrial problem involving a new process or product. The problems are provided by industrial firms who commission studies from the Management Lab (non-disclosure forms are signed in order to protect the companies’ IP). The Management Lab projects typically address problems with both technical and business components. To date nine projects with MRSEC personnel have been completed.
Intellectual Property and Service to Industry
The Center has an ongoing commitment to transform its science into tangible benefits for industry in the form of patents, copyrighted software and other licensable intellectual property. This effort has led the MRSEC to form a partnership with UCTech, the University of Chicago's technology transfer office. This partnership involves regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings between UCTech managers and members of the MRSEC community to generate new ideas for patent disclosures, as well as participation by MRSEC members on the UCTech Faculty Advisory Committee.
We also sponsor Careers in Science Seminars to bring in industrial visitors for one- and two-day visits. The speakers are encouraged to meet with the students and to talk about science and life in industry, thus showing our students how their science education may be put to use. Some of these visitors bring colleagues with them, which is helpful in increasing the interaction with students. These contacts have helped to place Center graduates in industrial positions.