April 6, 2021
We Collaborate to Innovate: Watch and Learn About Our Decade-long Partnership with Case Western Reserve University
Progress in science is almost always a story of collaboration. Innovation is seldom a solitary act – it is the byproduct of a system of knowledge work, into which people pour their best thinking and out of which new collisions and new breakthroughs are born.
This kind of collaboration is valuable inside of an institution, but something even more special can happen when two institutions come together. The perspectives and opportunities that arise make both groups stronger, and new kinds of possibility inevitably bloom as a result.
Such is the story of Underwriters Laboratories’ nearly decade-long partnership with Case Western Reserve University, where scientists and students alike come together to advance the state of the art in fire science, and train a new generation of diverse, curious, and engaged STEM leaders in the process.
'Exploring Safety for the Public Good' and Inspiring the Next Generation of STEM
Tom Chapin, Underwriters Laboratories’ vice president of research, describes the space in which the partnership exists as “rarefied air,” where together the two institutions are “exploring safety for the public good, and sharing that knowledge to inspire new students in the area of STEM.”
For Case Western, the partnership enables them to expand their fire safety research as well as their scholarship activity, including a program called Envoys, which recruits underrepresented students from Cleveland high schools into Case Western’s STEM programs. It’s part of the university’s commitment of 750,000 hours to the city of Cleveland, including a substantial commitment to Cleveland schools.
In turn, Underwriters Laboratories has an opportunity to approach fire science and safety standards with the deep, long-term perspective that an academic environment provides. And, throughout the process, Underwriters Laboratories has access to a group of diverse and uniquely talented individuals who, if they choose to pursue a career at Underwriters Laboratories, do so having already been exposed to the organization and its mission.
“Case Western Reserve and Underwriters Laboratories have developed one of the most important, deep corporate partnerships that we have,” says Anne Borchert, associate vice president of Corporate Relations and Strategic Projects at Case Western Reserve. “This is a collective strategy to help each other do the right thing.”
Open Research Results Yield Numerous Benefits
The beneficial results of this partnership show up not only at Case Western and Underwriters Laboratories, but around the world. This is because of the unique structure of the partnership – all of the research results are released to the public as open data, so that others can learn from, and build on, the work the two institutions do together.
“Where most academic relationships with industry are proprietary,” says Chapin, “ours is open. We’re trying to generate knowledge that will be made freely available to society.”
As the Underwriters Laboratories-Case Western Reserve partnership approaches its second decade, the impact it can make is still only beginning to take shape. From expanding understanding of scientific standards, to new approaches to fire safety, to an emerging generation of STEM talent, the partnership stands as an example of what’s possible when two organizations come together with a shared purpose.