20 January 2009

Research in magic circles

It is interesting to see how companies change their models of working with academics. One recent development, most visibly promulgated by Rolls-Royce, is the "university technology centre". UTCs, as Rolls-Royce dubs them, are big university teams with the company as the "sole proprietor". These centres work on specific issues that appeal to the company.

Originally a British phenomenon. RR now has UTCs all over the world. For example, one of the most recent, number 25, is in Darmstadt, where the Technical University in Darmstadt has a UTC that specialises in "the aerothermal interaction between the combustor and turbine".

Now we have a new variation on the theme. Well, GE Healthcare says it is new, but I gather that the late lamented chemical giant ICI did this sort of thing years ago. The new model is the "research circle," which I can across when writing about it for Science|Business, Research in magic circles.

Instead of a fragmented web of bilateral arrangements with dozens of different academic groups the company sets up a club of academics who work on different aspects of a subject. In this case the subject is a promising new way of doing magnetic resonance imaging, bringing it into the realm of "live" analysis of how drags treat cancer, for example.

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