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Mission and History

The Industry–University Cooperative Research Centers (IUCRC) program accelerates the impact of basic research through close relationships between industry innovators, world-class academic teams, and government leaders. IUCRCs are designed to help corporate partners and government agencies connect directly and efficiently with university researchers to achieve three primary objectives.

  • Conduct high-impact research to meet shared industrial needs in companies of all sizes;
  • Enhance U.S. global leadership in driving innovative technology development, and;
  • Identify, mentor and develop a diverse high-tech, exceptionally skilled workforce.

The IUCRC program provides a structure for academic researchers to conduct fundamental, pre-competitive research of shared interest to industry and government organizations. These organizations pay membership fees to a consortium so that they can collectively envision and fund research, with at least 90% of member funds allocated to the direct costs of these shared research projects.

Universities, academic researchers, and students benefit from IUCRC participation through the research funding, the establishment and growth of industrial partnerships, and educational and career placement opportunities for students. Industry members benefit by accessing knowledge, facilities, equipment, and intellectual property in a highly cost-efficient model; leveraging Center research outcomes in their future proprietary projects; interacting in an informal, collaborative way with other private sector and government entities with shared interests; and identifying and recruiting talent.

Successful IUCRCs require:

  • A capable research/management team with a strong entrepreneurial mindset;
  • Universities, faculty, and students interested in deep engagement with industry;
  • A community of industry and government partners seeking pre-competitive, use-inspired research projects.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) provides funding to support Center administrative costs and a governance framework to manage membership, operations, and evaluation. Each IUCRC is expected to grow over time and be independently sustainable by the end of the award period.

Every year, more than 2,000 students engage in industrially-relevant research at Centers nationwide, giving them on the job training for a career in the private sector. About 30% of these student researchers are hired by the member companies.

NSF created the IUCRC program in 1973 to foster long-term partnerships among industry, academe and government. These partnerships support research programs of mutual interest, contribute to the nation's research infrastructure base, promote workforce development, and facilitate technology transfer. 

NSF is a federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an $8.1 billion budget in fiscal year 2019.

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Strategic Engagements

IUCRCs support areas of strategic interest to industry, offering resources to develop faster paths to market. Industry and government agencies can participate as Center members or by partnering directly with NSF at the strategic level to inspire new areas of research.  

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