10 Principles for Successful City-University Partnerships

For Mayors & University Presidents, Provosts

1. Embrace the idea of the city as a “living lab” and the university as a research & development resource where faculty and students can work on policies and technologies that will enhance quality of life and advance the understanding of cities and urban science.

2. Formalize a partnership between your city and university with a memorandum of understanding that includes a commitment to jointly undertake “research, development, and deployment” (RD&D) projects.

For cities

3. Assign a lead point-of-contact at the city who is responsible for managing the innovation partnership. The PoC should have a multi-agency purview, rather than sitting in a particular city agency. The PoC should be a policymaker with a research perspective.

4. Identify problems that need to be solved and opportunities for innovation by conducting an internal review of city agencies and by surveying constituents for their areas of importance, concern, and frustration.

For universities

5. Assign a lead point-of-contact at the university who is responsible for managing the innovation partnership. The PoC should have a multidisciplinary purview, rather than sitting in a particular university department. The PoC should not be a full-time researcher and should have experience in policy.

6. Survey faculty and students for interest in working on urban science matters. Form a multi-disciplinary network managed by the university point-of-contact. Create a student club focused on urban science.

Executing on Research, Development, and Deployment

7. Find the intersection between city priorities and university expertise. Connect city policymakers with university researchers to undertake RD&D projects in these areas. Identify metrics that will define success on these efforts.

8. Arrange regular, predictable, monthly meetings between the city and university points-of-contact at which they track progress on existing RD&D efforts and identify new opportunities.

9. In addition to seeking Federal, State, and Local governmental support, approach your local business and philanthropic community to support your RD&D efforts, given a shared interest in improving quality of life in the city.

10. Engage local community groups as partners to ensure that projects have their support and include their feedback.