Corporate engagement leads to solutions

Thursday, Nov 9, 2017

Princeton researchers have  a reputation for exploring some of the biggest questions in science. Industry has a reputation for turning those explorations into real-world solutions. Together, industry and academia can create the synergy that propels new discoveries in areas such as health, the environment and technology.

To support basic and applied research, Princeton’s Office of Corporate Engagement and Foundation Relations helps connect faculty members with companies that want to collaborate on open questions. “A core value of Princeton’s mission is ensuring that research benefits humanity,” said Coleen Burrus, director of Corporate Engagement and Foundation Relations. “Collaborations between faculty and industry make this possible because industry is focused on finding solutions to societal challenges.”

Collaborations with industry  scientists also help Princeton researchers identify unanswered questions and find new avenues of research, Burrus said. “The flow of knowledge is not just in one direction, from university to corporation,” she said. “These are true collaborations.”

Research is just one of several ways that industry can engage with Princeton. Companies can also license technologies, support fellowships, recruit students, and get involved in entrepreneurship through the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council and the Keller Center. 
The University provides support for research collaborations with industry through the Dean for Research Innovation Fund for Industrial Collaborations. To qualify for the award, Princeton researchers must secure a commitment from a company to provide matching funds in the second year of the project. This year, funding was awarded to three university-industry projects:
Assuring security for computer-based services 

A collaboration between Princeton and Amazon is enabling researchers to develop solutions for security challenges that threaten current and future computer systems. To address problems in computing security, Aarti Gupta, professor of computer science, and Sharad Malik, the George Van Ness Lothrop Professor in Engineering and professor of electrical engineering, will team with industrial partners to develop novel techniques for verifying security across hardware and software, with the goal of providing protected foundations on which computer-based services can depend.

Decarbonization of the grid 

A collaboration between Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and NRG Energy, the largest competitive power producer in the U.S., aims to study how to “decarbonize” the U.S. electrical power grid by transitioning the nation’s power supply from its reliance on high carbon-emitting power sources to a greater use of renewable and low carbon-emitting fuels. The collaboration, which includes Princeton scientists Thomas Kreutz, energy systems modeler; Eric Larson, senior research engineer; and Robert Williams, senior research scientist, builds on the shared interests of the Andlinger Center and NRG Energy to create a low-carbon future for the U.S. power sector.

Personalizing the user experience through algorithms 

When people browse online, algorithms are at work behind the scenes to serve content tailored to users’ needs and interests. A new collaboration between Robert Tarjan, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Computer Science, and researchers at Microsoft led by Siddhartha Sen, who earned his doctorate at Princeton in 2013, aims to enhance the browsing experience by creating data structures and algorithms that eliminate performance bottlenecks and advance machine learning applications such as personalizing news, identifying viral content, and optimizing data storage and retrieval.