Monday, September 28, 2009

Selling Research

by Andrew Gillen

Prior to coming to CCAP, my academic work focused on R&D spillovers, so I was quite intrigued by this CHE story by Goldie Blumenstyk.
as RIT's new president, Mr. Destler began to champion a new approach to the sometimes-stormy negotiations surrounding corporate-research relationships, believing the dissonance was nothing less than a threat to America's economic competitiveness.

A key problem: Too many starry-eyed universities dreaming of financial windfalls from that potential blockbuster patent were driving away companies with unrealistic demands for intellectual-property rights.

…Mr. Destler took to the stump, arguing in speeches and op-eds that it was time for universities and companies to break from common practice, stop the haggling, and simply let corporations own the inventions or other intellectual property that might result from the work they sponsored.
It’s an interesting idea, and I’m glad it’s being tried. I do think that such arrangements need to be carefully set up – there are lots of things tilting the scales. Perhaps the most important is that cross-subsidization of research, primarily in the form of low teaching loads, imply that the public is already paying for a lot of research, an investment that is often overlooked. Before supported research gets off the ground, a lot of unsupported research takes place. This opens the door to the possibility that private companies may get the benefit from both types while only paying for the supported research. But overall, I think experimenting with different arrangements like this holds a lot of potential.

For those that are interested in this topic generally, I recommend The Economic Laws of Scientific Research and parts of Universities in the Marketplace.

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