The Economic Power of University Spin-offs
According to Krisztina Holly, vice provost for innovation at the University of Southern California and former founding executive director of MIT's Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, “an opportunity to solve our job crisis lies right under our noses.”
In an opinion piece for CNN, Holly explained: “Currently, the federal government is investing nearly $50 billion a year on university research -- yet barely a dime on university programs to help translate the most promising ideas into new businesses and employment opportunities. That's like turning up the water pressure but never opening up the faucet.”
University-developed innovations have created high-paying jobs. In 2007, more than 550 companies spun out and more than 650 products made it to market from universities nationwide. But this is far below the potential impact, according to Holly. She calls for support for a policy proposal called IMPACT, which would invest a portion of federal funding --$2 million per program at 10 local demonstration sites -- to identify best practices for coaxing breakthrough ideas out of universities, and to develop objective metrics for measuring results. “The ultimate goal is to expand the program to all eligible universities,” Holly explains.
Another idea to get innovations to the market faster and create jobs, benefit consumers, researchers and university innovators is being promoted by the Kauffman Foundation: creating an open, competitive licensing system for university technology. This idea has been named one of Harvard Business Review's “Ten Breakthrough Ideas for 2010.”
According to researchers at the Kauffman Foundation, most universities channel commercialization through centralized technology licensing offices established in the wake of the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which over time have become monopolies that slow the process of commercialization. "One simple amendment to the Bayh-Dole Act would allow faculty members to choose their own licensing agents/experts and bring these discoveries to market quickly. Unleashing this kind of innovation will lead to the creation of new companies and new jobs," explained Robert Litan, vice president for research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation.
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