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Universities and research

In an idea reminiscent of Swanson’s concept of undiscovered public knowledge, Techcrunch is suggesting corporations turn to universities for a wealth of innovative ideas. Most research in universities is not commercialized. For that matter, most likely cannot be commercialized due to specialized nature of inquiry.

However, according to TC, entrepreneurs should explore the “motherlode of innovation hidden in the huge stacks of patents and discoveries backlogged at our universities and research labs”. Universities are attempting to take control of commercializing their own research. Specialized departments have been set up in larger universities to facilitate this task (and, in many cases, revenues from commercialization activities are growing as a percentage of overall funding). By design, however, higher education is not equipped to function at the speed (or for that matter, the priorities) of business. I’m concerned that a revenue generation focus will cause universities to lose focus of the broader (philosophic/social/exploratory) they play in societies. Do all aspects of society – health care, education, even government – need to converge on a corporate/business model? If so, where will we find the important counter balance to ensure one model does not come to dominate completely?

One Comment

  1. As long as Universities are able to focus on their goal of educating next generations and creating knowledge, working with business is an important way to fund research that would otherwise not get off the ground due to budget restrictions at universities. Pharmaceutical and medical device companies have a good history in these joint efforts since medical research requires significant education and considerable costs for equipment as well as long development times in many cases.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 9:34 am | Permalink