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Job location is at 10240 Science Center Dr, San Diego, CA 92121

The Director/Assistant Director, HPI Innovation Partnerships supports the efforts of the Salk Harnessing Plant Initiative (HPI) through the creation and management of new partnerships that supports HPI’s goals.

The Salk Harnessing Plant Initiative (HPI) is an innovative, scalable and bold approach to fight climate change by optimizing a plant’s natural ability to capture and store carbon and adapt to diverse climate conditions. This Innovation Partnerships position plays a critical role in enhancing and supporting HPI research, developing and maintaining academic and industry research collaborations, and facilitating the translation of the scientific discoveries into commercial products (ie. Salk Ideal Plants™) for carbon sequestration. 

Reporting to the Senior Director [and Director of Innovation Partnerships] in the Office of Technology Development (OTD), this position will have responsibility to (i) collaborate with HPI faculty and research staff to maintain an understanding of plant science and its potential applications, (ii) source opportunities and negotiate transactions for advancement of HPI research, (iii) continuously assess business needs for which HPI research can be leveraged, and (iv) work closely with the Senior Director and OTD colleagues, Executive Director of HPI and HPI leadership, Salk external relations department, Salk executive management, and members of the Board of Trustees as needed to advise, facilitate and support scaling and commercialization of HPI innovations.     


Business Development (55%)

Responsibilities include, but not limited to:

  • Identify and engage industry and academic collaborations to advance HPI research goals and support translation of HPI innovations into technologies or approaches that improve agriculture
  • Advise on strategic research alliances with collaborators having complementary capabilities and collaborators in different geographies worldwide.
  • Design deal structures, prepare terms and conditions, negotiate and bring to fruition sponsored research, strategic collaboration and various other agreements to support and enhance HPI research programs in a robust and sustainable manner with both monetary and non-monetary resources.
  • Maintain current understanding of agriculture, agtech, biotech, and high-tech market trends and needs, and connects them to HPI’s technology assets or research programs;
  • Foster relationships with industry, venture capital and angel groups; create value propositions and pitch opportunities to synergistic companies, and investors.
  • Ensure that all transactions appropriately protect Salk’s intellectual property rights.
  • Assist in licensing and commercializing HPI innovations.
  • Work across the Institute and regularly meet with HPI Sr. Administrative Director and leadership, faculty and research staff, and other administrative departments to facilitate HPI’s research, technology development, and fundraising goals.
  • Prepare reports on OTD activities that support HPI goals.

Industry Alliance Management (45%)

Responsibilities include, but not limited to:

  • Set appropriate expectations and drive strong and positive relationships with partners.
  • Collaborate with and support HPI Director Program Manager, project teams leaders and project management leads to ensure successful project execution.
  • Act as primary business relationship manager with academic and industry collaborators and track contract obligations.
  • Support HPI leadership and team members to manage, track and report progress of research collaboration programs to external collaborators.
  • Communicate progress timely to internal Salk stakeholders on project portfolio.
  • Critically assess risks to the success of each project and propose an action plan to mitigate.



  •  Minimum of 8 years’ experience in business development with focus on strategic alliance/partner management.
  • Experience building, evaluating, and clearly presenting complex business models.
  • Experience in market research utilizing secondary data sources and the internet.
  • Successful track record of working collaboratively with a variety of stake holders and cross-functional teams (internal and external) to resolve complex issues and create unique solutions.
  • Understanding of academic research setting, government regulations and sponsorship requirements and obligations.
  • Solutions-oriented problem solver with strong analytical and decision-making ability, able to synthesize complex and diverse inputs related to a problem and recommend solutions.


  • Hands on experience in agriculture, plant biology or molecular biology applications.
  • Experience drafting and negotiating technology-based agreements.



  •  Advanced degree (MBA, MS or PhD) with strong grasp of scientific language and concepts.



  •  Advanced degree in plant or molecular biology, or agricultural sciences.
  • Additional degrees or certifications in alliance management or project management.



  •  Working knowledge of intellectual property, patent law, and associated business practices.
  • Ability to synthesize technical knowledge and translate it into business opportunity.
  • Proven ability to regularly interact diplomatically with executives, faculty and clients and showcase ability to negotiate and influence senior leaders on matters of significance to the Institute.
  • Strong ability to perceive and understand constituent needs and lead teams toward a common goal and/or exerting influence across key functional areas.
  • Ability to envision and identify business opportunities, plus analytical skills to assess risks, drive potential collaborations and envision optimal deal structuring.
  • Professional and effective communication (oral and written) skills are essential as well as creativity and superior analytical abilities.
  • Strong leadership, business, technical, negotiation and contract-drafting skills.
  • High degree of self-reliance, flexibility and initiative in order to effectively contribute to evolving work situations; solution-driven orientation
  • Proven ability to establish contacts, develop relationships, and leverage those efforts in the development of mutually beneficial agreements.
  • Proven ability to make administrative and procedural decisions and judgments on sensitive, confidential issues;
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.


  •  Proficiency in project management tools such as SmartSheet, or Asana.
  • Experience or working knowledge of academic technology transfer and licensing.



  •  Must be willing to work in an animal-related research environment.
  • Satisfactory completion of the Institute’s background investigation.


This position will be constantly adjusting focus, grasping, hearing, keying, seeing, sitting, talking, analyzing, calculating, communicating, reading, reasoning, writing, working in confined areas and inside. 

Equal Opportunity Employer/Protected Veterans/Individuals with Disabilities

The contractor will not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against employees or applicants because they have inquired about, discussed, or disclosed their own pay or the pay of another employee or applicant. However, employees who have access to the compensation information of other employees or applicants as a part of their essential job functions cannot disclose the pay of other employees or applicants to individuals who do not otherwise have access to compensation information, unless the disclosure is (a) in response to a formal complaint or charge, (b) in furtherance of an investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, including an investigation conducted by the employer, or (c) consistent with the contractor’s legal duty to furnish information. 41 CFR 60-1.35(c)