Tech-transfer programs, the collaboration between university and industry to spin-out innovations developed in education research labs, has historically been a win-win for all involved — the university, the innovator and enterprise. In the past, governments were a critical piece to this puzzle — providing the capital as an objective party, needed to fund innovation development. However, since government R&D budgets have been shrinking, universities have been forced to look for new sources to fund their research – corporate America.
Data collected between 1990-2005 by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science at Technology, at the University of California from faculty members, staff and students, and employees of the three associated national laboratories disclosed 12,516 inventions to their office of tech transfer. Of these, nearly 1,500 were supported, at least in part, by corporate funds.
What once was automatically perceived as a conflict of interest, corporate capital supporting innovation in the university setting is being done effectively — with the help of a well-managed office of tech transfer to maintain objectivity. Innovation will continue, it is just a matter of who will be there to support it.