Cambridge University's professor of engineering and sustainable development Peter Guthrie urged industry to form closer ties with universities last week to ensure research projects were developed to meet industry needs.
'Industry doesn't have time to learn what it doesn't know, ' he said.
He also warned that the success of academic research should not be measured by the number of papers produced but by its relevance to and influence on practitioners.
'Research should be commissioned to release the intellectual firepower of academics and practitioners, ' he said.
He added that researchers needed to move away from publishing papers in 'arcane language' which risked being ignored by industry.
He gave examples of current Cambridge University projects which set out to be useful and accessible, including one on energy efficiency in Cambridge buildings.
This report revealed that, unbeknown to their designers, some buildings built to be energy efficient were failing to deliver.
Guthrie was speaking at the ICE presidential conference in Cambridge last week. He also voiced fears that the term sustainable development had become devalued by industry.
He claimed that some organisations had a sustainability department but did not put sustainable principles into practice in all other departments.