A new model for industry-sponsored research on university campuses

August 29, 2018

Postdoc Brylee David B. Tiu researches in CARA lab at UC Berkeleyimage:  Postdoc Brylee David B. Tiu is researching mussel-inspired adhesives at UC Berkeley with funding from BASF's California Research Alliance. (photo: Marge d'Wylde, College of Chemistry)

BASF, the world’s largest chemical company, underwrites research at various campuses in California through the California Research Alliance (CARA). The four-year-old effort, centered at UC Berkeley and including nine other California universities, supports research at the intersection of cutting-edge science and commercial opportunity. 

CARA is the largest of BASF’s four regional university research alliances. The others are in Massachusetts, Central Europe, and Asia. The firm also has collaborations with more than 600 individual universities, research institutes, and companies.

Centered at UC Berkeley and involving seven other University of California system schools as well as California Institute of Technology and Stanford University, CARA focuses on topics that straddle basic and applied research. CEO and CTO of BASF, Martin Brudermüller said CARA is BASF’s “biggest academic engagement anywhere, in [terms of] money and people.”

BASF’s contribution to UC Berkeley’s scientific endeavors is welcome, but the firm certainly doesn’t control the school’s research, said Douglas Clark, dean of the school’s College of Chemistry. “We are not a manufacturing or product development arm of BASF,” he told C&EN during a visit to his office.

“We do lots of fundamental research here. And we do work that is closer to commercialization,” Clark said. “BASF is a great partner to guide us, but they do not dictate the work to be done.” And, he added, “we’re here to educate students and do research that benefits society.”

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