To improve the quality of life in a modern society it is essential to reduce the distance between basic research and applications, whose crucial roles in shaping today's society prompt us to seek their understanding. Existing studies on this subject, however, have neglected the network character of the interaction between university and industry. Here we use state-of-the-art network theory methods to analyze this interplay in the so-called Framework Programme--an initiative which sets out the priorities for the European Union's research and technological development. In particular we study in the 5th Framework Programme (FP5) the role played by companies and scientific institutions and how they contribute to enhance the relationship between research and industry. Our approach provides quantitative evidence that while firms are size hierarchically organized, universities and research organizations keep the network from falling into pieces, paving the way for an effective knowledge transfer.