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Commercialising public research: One of the Innovation Policy Platform’s core subjects

16 January 2014
by Guest author
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Click to see the Platform

Today’s post is from Andrew Wyckoff, head of the Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry (STI) at the OECD. It follows the post by the World Bank’s Gerardo Corrochano about the Innovation Policy Platform on Friday, and is co-published here by the World Bank.

Do you know what FedEx, the well-known overnight shipping company, and Dell Computers, a multinational technology company, have in common? Both firms’ core business ideas were developed by young student entrepreneurs. There are many other stories out there illustrating that universities and other public research institutions (PRIs) are a major source of innovations.

In searching for new routes to growth policy makers around the globe invest high hopes in public research. A premium is being placed on the contributions of public research to the creation of new knowledge capital. The way universities and PRIs operate is also changing including notably the mechanisms and terms on which universities and PRIs are engaging with business and society. We also see that innovation is becoming more open and collaborative and that knowledge circulates more quickly and freely than ever. This inevitably has impacts on the commercialisation of public research.

Recent work we conducted at the OECD on this topic demonstrates the importance of channels other than patents for the commercialisation of public research. The idea that research results reach the private sector in the form of patents, licenses and spin-offs based on patents no longer corresponds to reality. The commercialisation of public research through these channels has shown a general slowdown since the late 2000s. While patenting remains important, universities and PRIs are emphasizing other ways to commercialise their research, notably collaborative research, student entrepreneurship and faculty mobility, contract research and consulting.

Policy makers need to respond to the latest trends with new ways to support public-private knowledge exchange. Facilitating greater access to publicly funded research and data is critical. Moreover, new strategies to link teaching, research and commercialisation, such as student mentoring, can provide the new generation of students with the necessary skills to take their knowledge to markets.

Most importantly, policy makers have to take a strategic view of the intellectual assets generated by public research and demonstrate how these can contribute best to their national innovation system. The Innovation Policy Platform is a valuable tool to help policy makers reach this objective. The Platform helps policy learn how innovation systems operate, identify good practices, and apply effective solutions. The technology transfer and commercialisation, the universities and public research institutes and the intellectual property rights modules of the IPP discuss the critical factors that arise in debates about the commercialisation of public research. The platform also provides information on different countries’ policies in this domain. This information is based on the OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook questionnaire.

The IPP is a joint OECD-World Bank initiative, and as such seeks to facilitate knowledge exchange and collaboration across countries and regions on innovation policy. The current site is still a beta version. We plan to introduce collaborative features to more actively support the design and implementation of policies.

For the IPP to reach its potential, we rely on your experiences and feedback. I join Gerardo Corrochano by saying that we look forward to developing the IPP with you.

Useful links

World Bank Private Sector Development blog

OECD work on innovation

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