Company-University Collaboration: Use Case Model
This use case model is a supplement to the ICSE SER&IP 2017 workshop
“Innovation Through Collaboration: Company-University Partnership Strategies”
by Steven Fraser and Dennis Mancl.
- Note: this is still an early draft of the use case model -- there
are still several actors and scenarios to be added
Company-University Collaboration: Actors in the Use Case Model
The use case model for company-university collaborations is multi-faceted.
The model describes the “roles” involved in the setup and execution of collaboration efforts.
There are several strategic and tactical roles on the company side that are filled by company R&D managers, architects, senior technical staff, etc.
- Role 1: Collaboration manager is the person who coordinates the collaboration activities and looks for opportunities to make the collaboration more effective. This role is essential as the number of university collaborations increases -- to organize and connect company HR, Legal, Finance, Philanthropy, Sales, and Marketing resources.
- Role 2: Company R&D managers evaluate the need for collaboration when current and future product plans can benefit from open innovation. They may identify some technologies (such as development tools, frameworks, high-performance databases, communication utilities, or specialized hardware) that are needed to augment the company’s ability to deliver high-quality products. Or they may identify additional technical experts that would help accelerate the development of new products.
- Role 3: Company executive managers play an important role in establishing new collaborations -- they help choose the types of collaboration, to sign off on the potential external partners, and to set the basic rules how the collaboration will operate.
Secondary actors on the industry side of the collaboration use case model include:
- Technology transfer agents who provide training and coaching based on the collaboration results.
- Invited speakers (e.g. company executives, R&D staff) by university partners.
- University alumni (company staff who are alumni of potential university research partners) are company staff who have strong connections to university faculty and research programs.
The roles on the academic side are filled by various academic personnel, such as students, professors, professional staff, and university administrators.
- Role 4: Research collaboration leaders (also referred to as “Principal Investigators” -- PI) are the counterparts of the industry-side collaboration manager.
- Role 5: Research collaborators (faculty, research staff, students) are the people who write work proposals, perform research activities, and publish results.
- Role 6: Collaboration governance managers (contract and philanthropy management, department heads, deans, etc.) are the people in the university-side bureaucracy who participate in the oversight of university research programs.
These are the primary university stakeholders in the research collaboration. The role of the oversight staff is to ensure that the initial collaboration agreement complies with the rules of the university -- gifts and grants are used in accordance with university policies, the rights to publish research results are clearly defined, and so on.
Secondary actors on the academic side of the collaboration use case model include:
- Company alumni (former company technical staff members who have transitioned to academia)
In addition, there are other actors who are on the borderline between companies and universities:
- Independent consultants (with connections to both companies and universities) who sometimes act as catalysts in the setup of collaboration relationships.
- Student interns working as company employees -- for students, this can be a useful side-effect of their involvement with a collaboration relationship.
- Professors on sabbatical or professors as consultants working temporarily at or with the company -- this is one common form of collaboration that serves the needs of both the company and the university. Professors learn more about the business-related issues connected to a research program.
- Company staff as visiting university faculty -- this can be an excellent way to foster goodwill between the company and the university.
Goals and values of the actors
In a use case model, the main use cases are linked to specific goals of the primary actors. It is impossible to cover all possible goals, but a good use case model will describe a few of the most valuable goals.
Another input to the use case model is the values of the stakeholders -- the side-conditions that must be observed in the scenarios. In this model, the stakeholders are the most important secondary actors, who perform oversight on the process of setting up collaborations and who work to preserve the interests of the companies and universities.
The top goals are:
- Set up collaboration (company driven project based partnership)
- Set up multiple collaborations (company driven multiple program-based partnerships)
- Renew or extend an existing collaboration
- Produce a progress report for a single collaboration or a collaboration program
- Review the costs and benefits of a collaboration program
There are a number of activities that are part of the “setup” of a
collaboration, such as creating an RFP (Request for Proposals), selecting
the method of advertising the RFP, writing proposals, evaluating
and selecting the best proposals, negotiating a Statement of Work (SOW),
defining a collaboration budget, program oversight, and program termination.
These are all detailed steps within the scenarios of the use cases.
It is important for the use cases to “preserve the values” of the
stakeholders who are involved in the collaboration relationship.
Some of the values are related to corporate goals, budgets, and
Other values are connected with the rules and procedures of academic
Some of the most important values for companies are:
- Preserve company intellectual property
- Access to expertise in a new technology area
- Recruit talented new employees
- Company reputation for state-of-the art technology work
- Tax benefits from philanthropy to universities
Some of the most important values for universities are:
- Real-world validation of university research
- Access to industry-grade equipment and labs
- Employment opportunities for students
Each use case is characterized by a main scenario (the most common
course of events for the use case) plus variations and extensions.
Variations are alternative scenario steps -- different ways of
accomplishing the same goals.
Extensions are alternative paths that describe failure scenarios
or some of the ways to react to failures of individual steps.
Use case 1: Set up collaboration (company driven project based partnership)
Context: A company wants to set up a single collaboration program, and they
have one or more university groups in mind who could provide some value.
Trigger: This use case starts when a Company executive manager or Company R&D manager has identified the corporate need and the budget to start a collaboration program.
- Company executive managers or Company R&D managers determine that they need to start a collaboration
- Collaboration manager is selected, and the Collaboration manager works to create and advertise the RFP created
- The “advertising” might be to a single prospective academic partner, or it might be shared with a number of potential collaborators.
- Collaboration manager gets help in writing the RFP from R&D staff
- One or more Research collaboration leaders see the RFP, decide to write a proposal
- Some proposals might be formal documents, some might be more informal
sketches and discussions -- depends on the existing relationship between
the company and university
- Research collaboration leader gets help in writing the proposal from Research collaborators (faculty, research staff, and/or students)
- Collaboration manager works with other company staff to evaluate the proposals
- Collaboration manager accepts a research proposal, start the process of negotiating a Statement of Work with the Research collaboration leader
If this scenario is successful, there will be a research agreement that specifies the work program, schedule, and budget.
In some cases, the research agreement might also identify deliverables as part of the schedule -- but not for “gift programs.”
Postcondition: The research agreement is agreed on, and the research collaboration is ready to begin.
Here are some variations and extensions:
- Variation of Step 1: An important variation is when a university has been advertising
their research results (via published papers, university reports, or internet
blogs) -- and a Company R&D manager says “Hey, that is just what we need!”
- Extension of Step 6: In some cases, none of the research proposals are adequate.
The company has four options: they might decide to abandon this use case
(FAILURE), they might ask one or more university groups to rewrite their
proposals (and go back to step 4), they might decide to advertise the RFP
to other academic groups (and go back to step 4), or they might reevaluate
the goal of the collaboration and create a new RFP (and go back to step 2).
Last modified: Mar. 24, 2017