School Ties

Cut R&D costs--send your products to college.

Frustrated by the high costs of research and development? Consider acollaborative effort with a nearby college or university. It can save you moneywhile you take advantage of state-of-the-art facilities.

Keith Baumm, 30, president of Advanced Composite Engineering, a company in VanBuren, Maine, that manufactures composite racing bicycles, uses an R&Dalliance between his company and the University of Maine to refine prototypesand develop cutting-edge products. "Obviously, a company of our size [with$500,000 in annual sales] doesn't have the R&D facilities that U-Maineoffers," says Baumm.

Advanced Composite Engineering builds prototypes and the university does thetesting and analysis. Baumm uses the information for his company, and theschool applies it to other areas, creating a win-win situation for bothentities.

To forge a similar alliance for your own company, Baumm advises beginning witha clear picture of your goals and the benefits you can offer researchers. Lookfor institutions doing research in your field, and network until you find adecision-maker. Then present him or her with a concise but thorough businessplan. "Make them aware of both your intentions and the net benefit to them,"Baumm says, adding that while the process sounds tough, a well-packagedpresentation can make it easy. When researchers see the benefits you offerthem, they'll likely be eager to work with you.