From Massachusetts Economic Development Guide 2023-24

Collegiate & Company Collaborations

What partnership opportunities are available between universities and industry?

An MIT graduate student measures chemicals at the Electrochemical Energy Lab.
Photo courtesy of MIT News


ome to 114 colleges and universities, including 14 research universities, 21 master’s universities, and 34 special-focus institutions, Massachusetts is a hotbed for higher education. Peppered with top-tier universities such as MIT, Harvard, Tufts, Northeastern, and Boston College, Massachusetts attracts the next generation of engineers and innovators. 

MIT Startup Exchange 

In Cambridge, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology actively promotes collaborations between MIT and industry partners through the MIT Startup Exchange. Chosen MIT-connected startups are based on licensed MIT technology or are founded by MIT faculty, staff, or alums. Currently, over 1,700 startups are registered within the program. The industry inclusion in the MIT Startup Exchange is primarily in partnerships with member companies of the Industrial Liaison Program (ILP), a fee-based membership initiative for large organizations to create relationships with students, faculty, and within the university. Program directors match the research interests of ILP member companies with relevant projects, faculty and researchers.

In 2021, research sponsored directly by industry totaled $178 million, equivalent to 24% of total MIT research expenditures.

“Massachusetts has amazing potential when we leverage our research institutions, universities, innovative companies and unmatched talent.” 

­— Kim Driscoll, Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, February 28, 2023

Core Research Facilities at UMass

Statewide, the University of Massachusetts offers industry, academic and government researchers access to its world-class core research facilities. UMass allows partners to utilize its high-end equipment, cutting-edge technologies and technical support for clinical research and translation on a fee-for-service basis. With over 90 research locations, the facilities at UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, UMass Dartmouth, UMass Lowell, and UMass Chan Medical School offer varying degrees of specializations that accommodate a range of focuses, including but not limited to life sciences, material sciences, nanofabrication, biomanufacturing, robotics, mechanical prototyping and high-performance computing.

The Innovations Institute at MassTech Collaborative

In 2003, the Massachusetts Legislature created the John Adams Innovation Institute as a response to the global competition for innovative talent and expanding industries. Known today as the Innovation Institute at MassTech, this organization is key in creating growth for high-demand industries vital to the state’s prosperity. Furthering the Commonwealth’s connections and economic advancements, the Innovation Institute partners and invests with academic, research, business, government, and civic organizations through its Collaborative Research & Development Matching Grant Program. 

“The proposals that receive grants are reviewed by an independent advisory group, which identify the key qualities that we look for in investments: ability to grow jobs, collaboration with the private sector, and engaging in areas of research and development where Massachusetts can play a global leadership role,” remarks Carolyn Kirk, executive director of the MassTech Collaborative.

Over the last decade, the Innovations Institute has made strategic investments in research & development infrastructure, with efforts aimed towards initiatives in the digital economy, including big data, digital gaming, mobile communications, e-commerce, robotics, marine sciences, advanced manufacturing and more.

Recent partnerships include numerous research and economic expansion projects between universities and aligned companies. On March 2, 2022, a new grant award of $3,057,320 to Harvard University and Boston University was announced. This funding supports the R&D of next-generation robotics and wearable technologies, led by Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and in collaboration with Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College and industry partners ReWalk Robotics Inc. and Imago Rehab. With the existing resources, this additional funding aids in developing rehabilitation, diagnostic and assistive devices that improve the lives of people with neuro-motor impairments. Aligned industry partners are set to help to push prototypes into commercial products that can drive growth in Massachusetts’s world-class robotics and digital health sectors. 

The following month, in April 2022, the Innovation Institute announced another investment with a $999,000 grant. These funds will support a three-year, $1,999,774 project managed by UMass Boston in partnership with Western New England University (WNEU). Alongside the universities, three Massachusetts-based small businesses have signed on to the project: Millimeter Wave Systems, LLC in Amherst, Quantum Microwave in Cohasset, and JanisULT in Woburn (a division of Lake Shore Cryotronics, Inc.) This project will establish two quantum-focused R&D facilities, enhancing the commercialization of computing hardware and supporting workforce development for the quantum information industry. 

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