Saturday, December 8, 2007

Exploiting University Research

As innovation and research becomes more and more important for economies, university research is becoming more and more attractive to large corporations and for start ups. Several universities in North America and Europe have links to established corporations that give funds for research in the hope that universities will have a break through and the corporations will have exclusive access to this research for commercial exploitation.

In the same manner many venture capitalists have themselves linked to universities in order to exploit commercial avenues with viable research that universities produce. Universities have many advantages from corporate research structures. University research has more leeway for flare, they do not have the pressure that a corporate structure would provide. Research in university is in most cases driven by passion rather than commercial returns, this takes out the time pressure.

Time is one of the most important variables to understand in knowledge economics. It is time that determines the viability of research being turned into a commercial product. Basically if something will take too long to develop into a commercial product corporations will not commercialize that research until further development takes place. There is no better place for further development than in a university where students to get their qualifications in most cases will have to prove that they understand previous research and to make a name for themselves they will need to advance previous research.

Time gives us the idea of what research will be commercialized. A venture capitalists wants returns, before exploiting that research they need to understand two things, time as explained above and the market. Pure theoretical research obviously has commercial value in the more distant future, whilst that branch of research that takes theory and attempts to create a product is what venture capitalists should be looking out for.

Understanding the theories of light is great, however the venture capitalists is more interested in for example micro processors that use light because than can carry far more information than micro processors that use copper wires and electrons. However note that it would not be possible to create so called crystal microprocessors without first understanding the properties of light.

The venture capitalists are interested or should be interested with what can be done with genetic research rather than the properties of genes, what new foods, better agricultural products can be created from manipulating genes.

That universities provide an area for uncluttered research is a bonus and universities that have facilities for research should never shy away from finding commercial avenues. Viable commercial products are a win win situation, the university gains a valuable income and the venture capitalists also make money and will be willing to associate more with the university.

This trend of commercial interests choosing to be close to universities should not be just a phenomenon for Europe and North America, but China, India, Russia, South Africa should all watch with interests this trend. Simply understanding time and the market and one will find many products can come from university research.

Knowledge eventually has to be exploited for a better society and a better world.

Bhekuzulu Khumalo

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Bhekuzulu Khumalo

I write about knowledge economics, information, liberty, and freedom