Collaboration plays a crucial role in scientific research, as it can involve researchers from diverse institutions, scientific fields, or countries. In addition, academic researchers are increasingly partnering with businesses and industries, further enhancing the importance of collaboration in scientific endeavors. As businesses increasingly recognize the power of human behavior research in unlocking the nuances of decision-making – not only to better engage with their customers and partners but also to retain and attract the best human talent possible – they’re looking for ways to study it. Some have the capabilities and expertise to erect big, multimodal human behavior labs with all of the latest technologies; others are investing in nimble, online solutions; and some are turning to research companies that focus on it.
Within human behavior research we see more and more fruitful academic/commercial partnerships, where businesses are tapping into the research infrastructure, experience, and expertise, and institutions are finding new sources of revenue. Some recent examples include:
- University of South Florida (USF) and Revenue Management Solution (RMS) collaborating to uncover biometric insights that can help some of the country’s top restaurant chains optimize sales and menus.
- University of Nebraska Omaha and Union Pacific partnering on research projects that span across all of UP’s value chain.
- Texas A&M utilizing eye tracking to help several local restaurants boost profits up to 20 percent through menu engineering.
- Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School and the Boston Celtics; NC State and one of the world’s largest greenhouse companies, Metrolina Greenhouses.
And those just begin to scratch the surface.
The through line in most of them is the importance of infrastructure as the foundation for their ability to collaborate. “We’re a comprehensive research unit that can tackle challenging problems. It’s easier to create relationships with this infrastructure,” Jeff Pool, program manager of Texas A&M’s Human Behavior Research Lab, explained. Debbie O’Malley, lab manager of the University of Nebraska Omaha’s CAB Lab, added, “Companies like when there is a structure in place.”
Both Academics and Commercials benefit
Both sides of these partnerships relay significant value – individually and collectively. For academic institutions, that includes:
- Opportunity. Students get the opportunity to work alongside potential future employers, gaining valuable exposure and experience that can give them a leg up as they enter the workforce.
- Revenue. By monetizing their resources and expertise through these commercial partnerships, academic institutions not only generate funds that help support the lab, but more broadly create additional revenue streams that benefit institutions as a whole. As a revenue generator, the lab has the ability to scale, which opens up opportunities for more disciplines on campus to incorporate the lab into their classes and create new or more advanced curricula that can attract new or higher-caliber students.
- Influence. Building connections in the commercial space can help expand academic institutions’ reach and build influence. With more collaboration, revenue and research comes higher rankings, and with higher rankings come more higher caliber students, researchers, donations, etc. In fact, one of the anecdotes we often hear is how on-campus labs become a showpiece for donors on visits.
For commercial businesses:
- Expertise. Businesses gain access to those who know biometric research inside and out. Tapping into that expertise can help optimize time and money, especially when timely insights are needed.
- Evaluation. For companies dipping their toes into biometric research, partnering with academic institutions with resources and experience can be a good way to test the waters. For some, it could even be an onramp to potentially doing it themselves. For others who may not want to commit to the investment themselves, academic institutions can serve as valuable extensions to their business.
- Access. Academic institutions are often at the technological forefront, utilizing the most innovative and advanced technologies that enable human behavior to be understood at the deepest level. Through public-private partnerships, businesses have access to the latest tools, and the skills needed to optimize those tools.
The natural synergy between companies that need better customer insights and academics who are passionate about using the latest tools to unearth those insights will only continue to grow as research spreads across campuses and businesses continue to realize its massive potential.