needs to be known about how the components of the systems function together.
Research universities also need to do much more to shape the public understanding of science, technology, and engineering. Science advisor John Holdren has suggested that scientists and engineers devote 10 percent of their time to such activities. “I’m not suggesting that, but we need to do better,” said Chameau. It also is important for scientists and engineers not just to describe problems but to focus on potential solutions.
As with other parts of the innovation system, research universities are finding it harder to support highly risky undertakings. Universities and governments must work together to support high-risk research, not just research aimed at incremental advances. Some faculty members have been seeking funds from private foundations to do high-risk research, but this source of support is limited.
One policy innovation that could encourage the commercialization of ideas developed at research universities is for universities to provide more support for what Chameau called “vertical specialization.” Institutions that can enhance the movement of early-stage technologies from laboratories and start-up companies to development by larger firms could be extremely beneficial in many industrial sectors. “This fits very well with what universities can do, and we’re going to see more of that.”
Universities and governments must work together to support high-risk research, not just research aimed at incremental advances.
The United States has traditionally had a very strong entrepreneurial sector that has driven the development of new companies and new industries. But several factors have recently limited the productivity of this sector in the United States.
The major problem, said Estrin, is that the venture capital system “is broken.” As venture capital funds have gotten bigger and become more accustomed to short-term returns, the number of firms willing to invest in high-risk, high-return ideas has decreased. In addition, the recession has reduced the number of angel investors, and the market for initial public offerings has significantly changed. Estrin urged that the venture