Industrial doctorate

When business and academia work together.

“Industrial PhD”—it’s a concept that attracts controversy. On the academic side of things, the fear is that industry could interfere with freedom to do the research. Many major academic organisations have recently expressed their views on this and attempted to establish rules for a type of PhD in which two partners at the supervisor level face each other with different goals: a university professor interested in scientific findings and a supervisor on the company side interested in business applicability.

This type of PhD could “offer access to excellent industrial research infrastructures, enable interesting application-driven research questions to be dealt with and facilitate entry into a career outside academia,” says Mathias Winde, programme manager for university policy and organisation at the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (Donors’ Association for the Promotion of Humanities and Sciences in Germany).

Winde, however, also points to the great need for regulation and coordination. He notes that it is important to clarify the roles of everyone involved at an early stage and to discuss issues such as periods of absence, intellectual property and access to infrastructure.