Long before NSF Director Erich Bloch began beating the drums for multimilliondollar interdisciplinary research centers, foundation officials quietly embarked on a program to provide seed money for smaller cooperative research efforts between universities and industry.

The program, which since 1979 has stimulated the creation of more than 40 such centers at schools around the country, offers valuable lessons in how to build industrial ties without sacrificing the quality of scientific research on campus. The keys to success include an attractive research agenda, hard-nosed management, academic independence, and proximity to the companies that foot the bill. Since 1978 NSF has spent $20 million on its University Industry Cooperative Research program. Industry has contributed $86 million and state governments $35 million. The net result of that expenditure has been proof that the academic community can help improve the climate for technological innovation in American industry.

Although NSF initially gave out about $1...

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