Commercialising academic research

Cunningham, Edward (1991) Commercialising academic research. Quarterly Economic Commentary, 17 (2). pp. 56-60. ISSN 0306-7866

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Britain's performance in converting research into commercial opportunities is overladen with cliches. It is said that the British are good at pure research, as evidenced by the significant number of Nobel prizes and other distinctions, but no good at converting it into marketable products; others do that, the Americans or the Japanese. British research is more often than not achieved on a shoestring, whereas others invest sensible sums. The British are less focussed; they want to do what the individual researcher perceives as important; and, so it goes on. Some are overstatements and some are not entirely fair, but it is a fact that we are missing out on a disturbing number of industrial opportunities created by our research efforts. So, before even introducing the subject of whether or not more funds should be made available for research, how about a higher conversion rate from what we have? And how about starting with the research that exists in our Universities and similar institutions? The sections that follow examine, first of all, the place of academic research and the potential that exists for spin-outs development. The real challenge is to exploit that potential and so an assessment is then made of the principles which need to be accepted and which provide the basis for the process of realising that potential. But, that process cannot take place without support, especially financial. So, an approach is outlined for utilising Government resources with a meaningful, rather than token, involvement of the private sector.