The foundations for a strong collaboration between the Procter and Gamble Company (P&G) and the University of Michigan began to take shape nearly 15 years ago. Then, P&G’s Connect + Develop organization, a central research and development unit aimed at leveraging outside partners including universities for innovation was launched. Just a few years later, U-M’s BEC was formalized. Over the course of the next decade the two organizations began experimenting for ways to build on existing collaborations, which included a strong history of recruiting and classroom engagement. In 2011 P&G signed a statewide master research agreement with all of Michigan’s public universities and three years later, signed a progressive master agreement with U-M. Since that time, the partnership has expanded to include a broad range of new research activities, experience-based learning opportunities for students, and student project activities.
One of the newest campus collaborations leverages the unique strengths of the BioSocial Methods Collaborative (BSMC) at the Institute for Social Research (ISR). The collaboration between P&G and the BSMC has resulted in multiple research projects and provided inspiration for the new U-M HomeLab located at ISR, which offers companies like P&G a novel way to conduct research, allowing the company to simultaneously capture biological and behavioral data that can ultimately be used to develop new and innovative products.
“P&G’s long history of Connect + Develop has established a culture in which open innovation, the idea of collaborating with outside partners, is the new norm for how we innovate. Three years ago, we declared our strategic partnership between P&G and U-M and since then, we have been able to have focused and fruitful collaborations leveraging the strong multidiscipline innovation ecosystem that the university has to offer,” said Kathy Fish, Chief Technology Officer, Procter and Gamble Company.
P&G and U-M have also experimented with other programs across campus including MCubed a cross-disciplinary research effort that often pairs non-obvious groups of faculty to tackle research challenges. (More information on P&G’s MCubed projects can be found here. Additionally, P&G has also sponsored new student project frameworks which bring together graduate students from multiple disciplines to work on technical challenges as an add-on to their in-class experience. These programs allow the company to create pilot projects and seed low-risk ideas, while expanding their network of faculty and student innovators. U-M and P&G currently partner on 21 active research projects, covering seven schools and colleges across campus.
To date, between R&D and philanthropic support, P&G has supported nearly 40 different units on all three U-M campuses. This broad relationship reflects the shared commitment to innovate together as the University of Michigan looks forward to the third century of academic and research excellence.