First, a tabulation of the number of new companies created with university technologies, together with an objective measure of their economic impact, would provide a more accurate estimate of productivity as a metric directly comparable among institutions. It is the only metric that is important to local, regional, and state governments when they look to the university for technology innovation and a force in the economic development. The metric might be more sophisticated if it included measures of preproduction investment and jobs induced by these companies,12 or even a highly comprehensive study of the economic impact of start-up companies such as been done for MIT by BankBoston.13 A similar study on Silicon Valley14 demonstrated that the number of jobs created and the tax revenue generated by such companies are important elements of an overall metric of economic impact.

Second, institutions need to develop metrics that reflect the amount of investment made in support of their own research from their partnerships with industry. A direct measure might be simply the amount of funds received for the support of research. More important indirect measures would include the creation of intramural funding programs for enhancing research and/or faculty competitiveness for extramural funds, jointly authored papers with industry, and so forth.

Research and education have been, and are likely to continue to be, the core mission of most universities. As such, the most efficient means of transferring technology is by graduating well-educated science and engineering students. Indeed, industry does not forge partnerships with universities so much for access to technologies as for access to students. Another metric for a university to apply to its industrial partnerships is the success that graduates have in entering the labor pool of those industries with which it collaborates.

There are, of course, many other issues that bear on a university's measure of the importance of industrial research partnerships—in particular, the trade-off between additional revenue from partnerships versus the additional management required for proper oversight.

University-industry partnerships have made the management of university research more complicated, including litigation over contractual disagreements, political exposure of faculty entrepreneurship in public universities, and faculty noncompliance with research misconduct and conflict-of-interest policies. Nevertheless, where the economic impact of the corporate spin-offs of university technology innovation has been carefully analyzed, research institutions are clearly forging highly productive partnerships with industry and, together, are forcefully driving economic growth of high-technology industrial sectors.


L. Pressman. S.K. Gutennan, I. Abrams, D.E. Geist, and L.L. Nelsen. "Preproduction Investment and Jobs Induced by MIT Exclusive Patent Licenses, A Preliminary Model to Measure the Economic Impact of University Licensing," J. Assoc. Univ. Tech. Managers 7:49-82, 1995.


Economics Department, BankBoston, MIT: The Impact of Innovation, special report (Boston: BankBoston, 1997).


James F. Gibbons, "Silicon Valley: Startups, Strategies and the Stanford Connection," MRS Bull. (July):4-10, 1994.

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