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"Only Connect": Academic-Business Research Collaborations and the Formation of Ecologies of Innovation

Jan 2008
Working Paper
07-033
By  Paul A. David, J. Stanley Metcalfe

Public and private policy for the European Research Area—as elsewhere—has an important role to play in fostering and maintaining the richness and diversity of this region’s “innovation ecology”. This is especially so in respect to the formation and reconfiguration of information connections among the region’s business and public organizations and institutions so as to promote higher rates of innovation. But a fresh look, and “rethink” within an explicit “systems” or organizational ecology framework is in order, because some of the main institutional innovations that have been promoted with a view to enhancing the exploitation of university research are do not seem to be the most beneficial ways of ensuring that knowledge which is created in academic research communities is made available to be translated into greater economic wealth. It is not sensible for policy-makers to continue trying to overcome the barriers to connecting publicly funded research conducted in the universities with commercially-oriented R&D and innovation, by having academic institutions become dependent upon commercialization of research findings and, hence being induced to behave as proprietary performers of R&D. Adding to the existing pressures on academic communities and their leaders to take on new and different missions, for which their historical evolution and specialized characteristics have not equipped them, runs the risk of damaging their ability to fulfill critical functions that no other organizations in the society are prepared to perform will comparable effectiveness. Vigorous pursuit of that strategy would jeopardize the open science arrangements that are more effective for the conduct of fundamental, exploratory research—a function that must be fulfilled by some institution if a basis for long-run productivity growth is to be sustained.

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paul david
paul a. david