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University Science and Technology Research

I recently sent out an article to law reviews titled The Pull of Patents. Of course, I would love comments or reactions to the essay. But I thought I would raise a particular issue and see if anyone has any thoughts, or better yet, data/studies.

Among other things, I suggest that patents not only enable improved supply of university research to industry for commercialization, but patents also pull/attract university resources used to produce research towards projects that industry demands (i.e., prefers/desires because of commercial prospects). Does anyone know of any empirical studies on how universities have allocated their research-related resources–ranging from $, professorships (initial hiring, tenure), professors’ time, graduate student assistanships, graduate students’ time, equipment, labs, etc.? I am interested in a range of questions: has the allocation of these types of “infrastructural capital” shifted over time toward certain types of research activities? toward those activities more likely to generate patentable results? towards those activities more likely to generate commercializable results? based on commercial prospects? towards generic or special purposes? towards particular industries? and so on. I am aware of some of the general trends in government funding, but I have not yet been able to find data on how universities support.

And if you do not know of any empirical studies but do have your own anecdotal story, let me know in the comments.

Note: I may post more on the role of universities in coming weeks.

4 thoughts on “University Science and Technology Research”

  1. This strikes me as a focused version of a broader question: How has the patent enterprise shaped the institutions of scientific research and technology development?

  2. Yes, absolutely. The last paragraph of the essay reads:

    This essay has introduced the concept of “patent pull” to capture the demand manifesting quality of patents. Patents “pull” (private and public) investment to productive activities that would be less attractive in the absence of patents. Exploring the role of patents from the demand side reveals that beyond affecting traditional capital investment decisions, patents can have more subtle and perhaps pervasive impacts on organizations and institutions, including but not limited to universities. This essay has focused on university research systems; further research into the role of patents in other systems where government and other non-market processes fare well in manifesting and processing societal demand is needed. That patents are introduced into the “normal” market setting to create distortions is well understood, but the impacts of such distortions upon priorities and the allocation of infrastructural capital within organizations and institutions requires further study.

  3. This is a little freaky – I was about to comment: “Hey Michael, you should contact Brett Frischmann and Jay Kesan” but now I think I have things sorted out. I don’t have anything particularly useful to add but am very interested in your essay and whatever you find out.

    At South Carolina the university hired a bunch of administrators and started filing tons of provisional applications. the university is now building a new “research campus” that is a “public private partnership.” I’ll save you my deeply cynical theories about how this is going to turn out…

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