engineering, and science, as well as an IP program that offers young people more knowledge about how to navigate these environments.
Dr. Baeslack said that one could certainly learn something about innovation and entrepreneurship in the classroom, but that young students might gain even more by spending a few weeks, a summer, or a semester with a startup company. “That’s how they really get excited, when they work in the real world.”
Mr. Morgenthaler asked the panel’s response to a comment by an earlier president of Case Western Reserve that “commercialization and technology transfer should only come through the minds of our graduates.” He asked why universities in the past had not been more commercialization minded. Dr. Proenza suggested three points. The first, he said, was historical. American universities had engaged with commercial enterprises in agriculture and the mechanical arts since 1862, when the Morill Land Grant Colleges Act set up the mechanism. It took another century for universities to do that for other areas. Second, most university presidents as late as 1990 disapproved of working with industry in any way. Third, only recently have people come to see that being strategic partners with industry can be in universities’—as well as the country’s—interest.
Universities’ Responsibility to the Community
Dr. Baeslack said he agreed with those three points, and added that public universities had more sense of responsibility to serve the community than many private universities. At private universities, he said, many faculty members have learned that their role is to do research, make discoveries, and publish results. “It comes back to the reward system, how strongly it defines the culture, and how difficult it is to change.” In recent years, he noted, it has changed at some private universities, notably MIT and Stanford. “I think that the importance of strategic partnerships with industry and the community is driving changes in the reward system and the expectations placed on faculty. But it’s been slow in coming. My goal is to see that accelerate much more rapidly.”
A questioner asked about the extent to which major research universities collaborate on issues of economic development. Dr. Proenza said there was a great deal more collaboration than may be apparent from the “outside.” In defined areas of expertise, such as in polymer science, were longstanding partnerships, and “we are increasingly seeing other opportunities.”
Dr. Harris pursued the question of collaboration, asking if there were any advantage to greater cooperation on IP issues, perhaps by bringing legal staffs together or creating a single point of contact. Dr. Proenza said that the greatest benefit might be in gaining contacts outside one’s area of expertise. Dr. Braeslak agreed that universities do collaborate widely, certainly in materials sciences, health sciences, cancer research, and energy. With the growing emphasis on interdisciplinary research, different universities can bring different strengths, and help in searching for third-party funding and partnerships.