Managing University Intellectual Property in the Public Interest, in 2011.44 Notable among the conclusions of the report was that “[university] patenting and licensing practices should not be predicated on the goal of raising significant revenue for the institution. The likelihood of success is small, the probability of disappointed expectations high, and the risk of distorting and narrowing dissemination efforts is great” (p. 5).

The committee believes that the “Nine Points” document cited above, and the conclusions of the NRC’s 2011 report on U.S. university technology licensing, provide valuable guidelines for U.S. universities’ management of their photonics-related intellectual property. The committee supports the conclusions of these expert groups.


As is noted above, the structure of the U.S R&D system has changed since 1980. As the share of federal R&D funding has declined, so also the role of large-firm R&D laboratories has decreased in significance, the influence of defense-related procurement within maturing high-technology sectors such as lasers (and, the committee believes, other photonics technologies) has declined, and offshore R&D has grown in importance. What do these trends imply for the structure of federal R&D in photonics and the ability of such R&D investments to produce significant economic payoffs for U.S. taxpayers? In other high-technology sectors, ranging from nanotechnology to semiconductors, one policy that has proven useful is public-private collaboration in R&D.45

It is widely accepted in economics that “in the absence of policy intervention, the social rate of return to R&D expenditure exceeds the private rate, leading to a socially suboptimal rate of investment in R&D” (p. 22).46 This market failure raises important questions for how public policy should seek to foster increased investment in R&D. In addition to public funding of R&D, one useful policy tool to internalize the externalities (e.g., that the social benefits exceed the private-firm


44 National Research Council. 2011. Managing University Intellectual Property in the Public Interest. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

45 An essential first step in developing such a policy is a better accounting of the current federal investment in photonics R&D.

46 Jaffe, A. 2002. Building programme evaluation into the design of public research-support programmes. Oxford Review of Economic Policy 18(1):22-34.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement