In suggesting that academe and industry need to work more closely together, Mark Samuels is revisiting one of the central aims of LINK – launched by the government in 1988 and running well into the 2000s (“‘Culture change’ or pharma coma”, News, 5 February). Several biotechnology programmes drew together the pharmaceutical and chemical industries with academic departments across the UK in a wide-ranging selection of projects often involving collaboration between many companies and several universities.
Although I agree with the thrust of Samuels’ thinking, I would suggest that he may have underestimated the amount of time and effort needed to make collaborative projects work, especially in leading-edge research areas. My experience in putting programmes and projects together is that risk of failure to launch, even at the last moment, coupled with the likelihood that much leading-edge research may go nowhere fast, may seriously inhibit those who might champion and participate in collaborative projects. I worked in a culture where attributing blame was not always a priority and where occasionally winging it was, if not openly encouraged, at least well tolerated: today’s climate seems to be rather different.