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March 06, 2024 | Tom Ballard

New report casts spotlight on ways to improve commercialization success

The working paper is titled “The Wandering Scholars: Understanding the Heterogeneity of University Commercialization.”

A recent paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research examines the issue of why some universities excel at commercialization and others do not have as much success.

According to a summary in the latest issue of the SSTI Weekly Digest, the authors followed the career movements of 31,000 academic researchers across 1,100 U.S. universities and analyzed how the situations at the different host universities may have influenced an increase or decrease in these researchers’ subsequent patent filings and company formations.

The paper’s findings suggest several potential state and institution-level policy interventions may help increase university commercialization rates. They include:

  • Increase investment in academic technology transfer offices;
  • Foster a campus culture that encourages and values research with commercial potential, through  training, publicly acknowledging or celebrating success, rewarding commercialization activity in the tenure and sabbatical processes, and supporting mentorship programs for interested faculty;
  • Encourage the campus research community to collaborate with industry partners, local businesses, and other research institutions and collect data on these efforts’ impact to inform future strategies;
  • Update intellectual property policies for more efficient technology transfer and increased industry engagement;
  • Expand support for commercialization opportunities in schools and colleges where commercialization paths are less likely to involve patents, such as through copyrights, digital rights, and trademarks;
  • Invest in financial programs that support university-industry research and commercialization collaboration;
  • Recruit faculty with interest in commercialization; and,
  • Provide commercialization-oriented faculty convenient access to start-up incubation space and venture development organizations.

The working paper, “The Wandering Scholars: Understanding the Heterogeneity of University Commercialization,” by Josh Lerner, Henry J. Manley, Carolyn Stein and Heidi L. Williams, is available here.


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