The Kostas Institute differs from similar research universities in that the program was made possible through a private donor instead of a federal grant, Flynn says. The impetus of the institute to support homeland security was a conscious decision made possible by the investment, he explains.
“Most academia got involved [in homeland security] when they received grants from the U.S. government to be a part of the effort,” Flynn says. The Kostas Institute, on the other hand, was funded with no strings attached, and it’s up to the leadership to uphold the mission of bringing together government practitioners, industry developers, and academic researchers, he notes.
Boynton and Flynn agree that the Kostas Institute should play “an honest broker role” in encouraging public, private, and academic collaboration. Often, private businesses are most focused on the continuity of business and making a profit, while public organizations are more concerned about protecting critical infrastructure, no matter the cost. Flynn explains it’s the Kostas Institute’s mission to bring these two sectors together to find a resilient security solution that ensures that businesses can continue running. Convening the public, private, and academic sectors tends to bring “a privilege of neutrality” to the project that is often absent when one sector addresses a project alone.
“We’re looking for the path by which we can collaborate, versus the one that puts us at security versus profitability,” according to Flynn. “We’re all focused on the same mission, which is ensuring that if something is critical, that it’s less vulnerable to disruption and more rapidly able to recover should it be disrupted.”
Companies are approaching the institute and asking how they can collaborate on projects with academic researchers. One corporation that sought out the benefits of an academic collaboration was the Rogers Corporation, a special materials company that supports innovation in critical infrastructure. “They were not just looking for a landlord, they were looking for a deep research partnership between a major research university—Northeastern—and their company,” according to Boynton.