Last week officials from the Obama Administration Commerce Department met with U.S. Research University officials in order to figure out how to do even more with research that is generated — often with federal funding.
Doug Lederman at Inside Higher Education has a solid piece on the meeting, which was closed to reporters. Much was made of the ‘new’ Kauffman ideas on technology transfer of federally funded research from major Universities.
While TTOs (technology transfer offices) have never much sense to me in today’s marketplace, it is where the debate has been centered for decades so I am not surprised that this is where the debate is today. It has become clear that the Kauffman ideas around technology licensing of federally funded research (which Harvard named a top 10 breakthrough idea) will be a driver surrounding some new legislation and possibly/probably funding for some elite research universities.
In my mind, the reality is that a culture of entrepreneurship needs to be instilled in the researchers. Some will take to it and others will not, but schools must begin to engage researchers. Explain to them that entrepreneurship is the tool to that they can use to make an impact with there research.
That being said, many of the greatest student entrepreneurs and others who come off the campus have nothing to do with technology transfer. That is not to say that they do not make use of campus infrastructure and assets, its just that the technology transfer office is not a factor in their creation of high impact firms.
While I understand that this is about increasing return on federal funding of R&D, this policy discussion and hoopla around technology transfer will crowd out the attention of University leaders and administrators as they try to get into this game.
Maybe they should create a business plan competition that guarantees the winners get funding for another grant cycle as I think that is where much of their non-research time goes — securing funding.. This might free them up to think about commercializing their ideas and findings rather than going after the next grant. Any thoughts?