data funding

Can corporate funding help connect students to data?

Universities are partnering with the private sector to fund research and expose students to real-world challenges

As universities increase their research efforts, many are partnering with the private sector to give students a chance to work with large sets of real data and have an impact on real-world projects and innovations.

One example lies in the Adobe Data Science Symposium, taking place on May 26, where professorts and students will be able to learn about real-world data science implementation in Adobe’s digital marketing business.

“There is a tremendous amount of learning in machine learning and data science,” said Anil Kamath, VP of Product Development at Adobe. “We’re at the forefront in applying some of these things in digital marketing and delivering experiences based on data science.”

Grants to universities can help the private sector learn how to tap into student talent and research happening in academia, he said.

“We educate them about problems we face in digital marketing in respect to using data to make decisions. We also educate them about ideas, projects, and encourage them to submit proposals based on their backgrounds. We give them funding and internship opportunities for the students, as well as access to data with which they can work on real examples of how these things will get used,” he said.

“We’re making students more aware of research,” Kamath said. “In some cases, people might be doing it in a vacuum. We’re making them aware of what real datasets are and what real applications are. Some of these universities are looking at starting programs and curriculum with big data and data analytics–we can help them create courses and have students graduate with those skills we’re looking for.”

Adobe is currently working with professors to incorporate their work into Adobe Marketing Cloud. Lise Getoor, a UC Santa Cruz professor and recipient of a grant, has produced new algorithms to improve the personalization and performance of marketing content by 10-15 percent.

“As an academic, you can try and think up real-world challenges facing marketers, but it’s much better to work with companies that actually work to solve these problems for customers every day,” said Getoor. “The Adobe Digital Marketing Research Awards allow me and my team to combine theory and practice—the goal of any researcher.”

It also helps students get a dose of the real world.

“In addition to real world problems and data, an important part of the partnership is the collaboration between academic researchers, students, and industry researchers. Exposure to this kind of experience, interacting with industry researchers and industrial problems, and having the opportunity to liaise across industry and academia puts students in a unique role, giving them real experience with real data science problems,” Getoor said. “It allows them to develop their own sense of expertise and confidence. I find that students are truly driven when facing a real-world dilemma head-on, rather than simply an artificially constructed scenario.”

“The award played a critical role in completing the data collection and analysis for my project on location-based mobile advertising,” said New York University Professor Anindya Ghose. “It is a massive validation for the importance of my and my colleagues’ research, and personally a big achievement.”

Since the inaugural awards in 2014, more than 100 proposals from over 30 universities have been submitted, with 18 selected for research grants. Recipients for the 2015 grants included professors from Rutgers University, Northeastern University, UC Berkeley and University of Pennsylvania.

As part of its efforts to further research at the university level and support future careers for students, the recent Adobe Digital Analytics Competition (ADAC) challenged students with analyzing mobile app data from Adobe customer Starwood Hotels. Brigham Young University students received $30,000 for a project focused on innovative ways to solve business problems through the use of data.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Laura Ascione

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