Edited by Joshua D. Sarnoff
Chapter 12: Catalyzing technology development through university research
Research universities have traditionally been catalysts for technological innovation, particularly in new and emerging industries. A recent report on the management of university intellectual property confirms this historical role, stating that universities ‘have a lengthy track record of providing dynamic environments for generating new ideas and spurring innovation, and for moving advances in knowledge and technology into the commercial stream where they can be put to work for the public good’. Products ranging from the Gatorade® sports drink to the polymerase chain reaction gene sequencing technology have emerged from university laboratories. University-based research played a major role in the growth of the early biotechnology industry and has made notable contributions to industries such as computer software, medical devices and the internet. In the United States (US), universities and other research institutions spent over $53 billion on research in 20093 and of the top 50 holders of US patents in the ‘biotech and pharma’ field in 2009, seven were US universities and eight more were US and non-US governmental or quasi-governmental research institutions. Against this backdrop, it is not surprising that some of the most promising new technologies relating to climate change are being developed at research universities. A growing number of universities, both in the US and internationally, have established patent positions in climate change technologies such as solar energy, wind power and biofuels. Several US universities have initiated ambitious ‘clean tech’ programs that combine academic research with industrial partnerships, business formation and policy analysis.
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