Company-University Collaboration: Use Case Model

This use case model is a supplement to the ICSE SER&IP 2017 workshop paper “Innovation Through Collaboration: Company-University Partnership Strategies” by Steven Fraser and Dennis Mancl.

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.

Industry-side actors

There are several strategic and tactical roles on the company side that are filled by company R&D managers, architects, senior technical staff, etc.

Secondary actors on the industry side of the collaboration use case model include:

Academia-side actors

The roles on the academic side are filled by various academic personnel, such as students, professors, professional staff, and university administrators.

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:

In addition, there are other actors who are on the borderline between companies and universities:

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:

  1. Set up collaboration (company driven project based partnership)
  2. Set up multiple collaborations (company driven multiple program-based partnerships)
  3. Renew or extend an existing collaboration
  4. Produce a progress report for a single collaboration or a collaboration program
  5. 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 procedures. Other values are connected with the rules and procedures of academic institutions.

Some of the most important values for companies are:

  1. Preserve company intellectual property
  2. Access to expertise in a new technology area
  3. Recruit talented new employees
  4. Company reputation for state-of-the art technology work
  5. Tax benefits from philanthropy to universities

Some of the most important values for universities are:

  1. Real-world validation of university research
  2. Access to industry-grade equipment and labs
  3. 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.

Main scenario:

  1. Company executive managers or Company R&D managers determine that they need to start a collaboration
  2. Collaboration manager is selected, and the Collaboration manager works to create and advertise the RFP created
  3. Collaboration manager gets help in writing the RFP from R&D staff
  4. One or more Research collaboration leaders see the RFP, decide to write a proposal
  5. Research collaboration leader gets help in writing the proposal from Research collaborators (faculty, research staff, and/or students)
  6. Collaboration manager works with other company staff to evaluate the proposals
  7. 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:

Last modified: Mar. 24, 2017