Academics and Industry: The Perfect Synergy


Academia and industry share a symbiotic relationship

In an industrial PhD the student is employed in a private sector company and enrolled at a university. This type of PhD allows the student to carry out a research project where the results are applied in an enterprise setting.

In reality is more than that. When I got the interview for this position my industrial supervisor asked me, “What you think about doing an industrial PhD? What do you think about the association between a company and a university?”

My answer was, “I think it creates the best synergy to the scientific development. Academic research can give the knowledge to develop something new, can be also the answer to some gaps in the industrial part and the latter can give the needs of the current market as well the necessary tools to the development and dissemination of the new product.”

“Indeed all starts in the academy!”, he said.

A successful company is an open-mind company able to listen and discuss the development of new products, new processes, and technologies with an academic institution. This is Arkema’s motto.

Constrains of an Industrial PhD

The open access is not as easy as in academic PhD.

In an industrial PhD, the students have to sign an agreement contract preventing them from disclosing any information related to the project they are working on. Publishing something is not as simple as in academic PhD, requiring a special permission from the company. The dissemination of the results of our work is usually done through patents.

Time and safety

Time is money! You need to have your PhD really well structured, with organized deadlines to have a good workflow in order to answer the needs of the company. Not only because of money but also because of safety issues. It’s completely forbidden work alone in the lab during an industrial PhD. Normally, technicians will have to be around. They have a defined working-time that they need to follow and so you need to coordinate your work in the lab with them. Even If you are the only person in your project you will need to know how to work in a team, in some cases you will become a project manager, and this can be a good beginning.

Industrial or academic PhD, what to choose?

In the end, all that matters is what we want to our life, what we really LOVE to do! Academic is not better than Industry and vice-versa. Both are important and doing what we love allows us not only to be good in what we do but to also be the best.

In my case, I choose Industrial PhD. The possibility to see the application of my PhD  answer the needs of the chemical market by the development of a product or a new process is something amazing and that can be seen more quickly if you are in a company.

It’s only a matter of what you love to do.


Ana Luisa, Arkema