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Overcoming Barriers to Collaborative Research: Report of a Workshop (1999)

Chapter: 2 Trends in University-Industry Research Collaboration

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Suggested Citation:"2 Trends in University-Industry Research Collaboration." National Research Council. 1999. Overcoming Barriers to Collaborative Research: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9722.
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Chapter 2
Trends in University-Industry Research Collaboration

University-industry research collaboration has a long history in the United States. Unlike the university systems of many other countries, the U.S. system is decentralized. A primary mission of American universities from their earliest days has been to provide graduates with the skills needed by local economies.4 Early research collaboration often grew out of the local orientation of a university's educational mission. 5 The development of electrical engineering, chemical engineering, and aeronautical engineering in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was centered on universities. Many of the modes of interaction that are familiar today originated before World War II (e.g., start-up companies based on university research, university-industry-government research centers, faculty consulting, and licensing of university-generated inventions). However, the postwar period witnessed explosive growth in U.S. research and development (R&D) and expansion of the university role in research.

Over the last two decades university-industry collaboration has grown considerably. One impetus has been the Patent and Trademark Laws Amendments of 1980 and subsequent revisions, commonly referred to as the Bayh-Dole Act, which rationalized and simplified federal policy on patenting and licensing by non-profit institutions of the results of publicly funded research.6 Most significantly, Bayh-Dole granted control to universities of most proprietary rights emerging from federally sponsored research. A second contributing factor was the emergence of revolutionary advances in university-based life sciences research. Today, industry funds about 7% of university research, about double that of 20 years ago, and various indicators of university-industry interactions show continuing rapid growth.7Appendix C spotlights some of the examples discussed at the workshop.

Collaboration involves many more rules and procedures to define and protect the interests of the parties than it once did. There were different

Suggested Citation:"2 Trends in University-Industry Research Collaboration." National Research Council. 1999. Overcoming Barriers to Collaborative Research: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9722.
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perspectives on whether this is a positive development. Clearly, an ''anything goes" approach is not practical, given strong public and private interest in orderly development. The emergence of more rules, procedures, and institutions to implement them (such as university technology transfer and licensing offices) can be considered a result of the incentive structure put in place by Bayh-Dole. If universities are to be responsible for management of a portfolio of intellectual property generated through federal research funding and can foresee use of the resulting revenue for academic purposes, it is natural that they would develop procedures and institutions to carry out those roles.

Several participants felt that the approaches taken by some universities are too bureaucratic or adversarial. One industry participant remarked on a "loss of trust," and saw universities as becoming focused more on income from licensing and royalties than on the goal of getting inventions into active development and use. Several participants noted that most university technology transfer operations do not break even and that only a small proportion of inventions (mainly in the life sciences) accounts for a large share of income. Given this context, elaborate strategies to maximize income on individual arrangements may not speed the movement of the majority of ideas into practical use—and may actually be destructive.

Several university participants responded that their institutions are doing their best to manage technology transfer activities in ways that maximize the public benefit. They see the approaches of some companies and other funding entities in the intellectual property rights area, such as the pursuit of extensive rights to university background research developed outside the collaboration, as stumbling blocks. The barriers raised by complex proprietary concerns, and possible solutions, are discussed further in Chapter 3.

Participants also discussed trends in the form and substance of collaboration. For example, as the funding criteria change for programs such as the National Science Foundation's Science and Technology Centers and State/Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers, we might expect to see more multi-university centers. Master agreements between universities and large companies that establish the ground rules for a range of specific interactions are also on the rise. Amgen, Inc.'s master agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University's agreement with Caterpillar, Inc., were discussed as positive examples.

Suggested Citation:"2 Trends in University-Industry Research Collaboration." National Research Council. 1999. Overcoming Barriers to Collaborative Research: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9722.
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Page 6
Suggested Citation:"2 Trends in University-Industry Research Collaboration." National Research Council. 1999. Overcoming Barriers to Collaborative Research: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9722.
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This report summarizes discussions and insights from the workshop on Overcoming Barriers to Collaborative Research held March 23-24, 1998, in Irvine, California. The workshop was organized by the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss barriers to university-industry cooperation and to explore concrete approaches to overcoming them. Practitioners from universities and industry, as well as government policy makers, participated in the two-day workshop.

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