March 12, 2009

Barriers between business and HE

Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/mar/12/business-research-spin-outs

Interesting article in Education Guardian today. References a report from the Advanced Institute of Management

Barriers rising between business and universities

Key policy of businesses working with universities at risk from red tape and overvaluing IP, says report

Don’t know much about the quality of the research, but taken on face value there are some interesting things in this – not least that Warwick is not in the top 10 for businesses favorite universities. Eep.

No.1 – the institutionalisation of relationships creates barriers and bureaucracy that make life difficult.

Now, the report argues that the sector has spent the millions provided by government on setting up management layers. My thought is that govt money tends to come with so many caveats, controls and reports that you have to waste time, money and effort on management layers to satisfy the paymaster – much to the annoyance of the end beneficiary. It’s a classic case of public/private philosophy clash. You see the same sort of stuff with AWM funds – you spend so long administering it you wonder if it is worth it.

So maybe not the HE sectors fault then – though we do love our admin!

No.2 – Universities over value their IP.

This is very interesting – especially in the light of the current financial crisis. No idea about whether this is the case or how you value this sort of thing properly, but there seems to be a disconnect between our expectations and the impressions of business.

No3. – Return on spin out investment.

This bit was really interesting:

Universities made £58m from selling spin-off companies created from university IP in 2006-07, compared with £783m from contract research, £288m from consultancy and £93m providing equipment, such as computer networks, and other services.

Now, I don’t know how Warwick rates on that scale but as a sector that is a fascinating set of numbers.

Think about it – the HE sector makes twice as much money by letting people borrow its stuff for a bit as it does from innovating companies – that’s amazing!

Plus – the govt spends 150m a year on supporting the commercialisation of academic ideas – for a return of 58m – ummm, can anyone see something odd there.

Spin outs are a long term game of course – Warwick Ventures reckon on up to 10 years to realise a return on investment, and out of every 10 ideas 9 will fail I guess. However, one wonders about priorities and models and whether the report writers have a point in their conclusion:

Salter said: “Focusing on university patenting and licensing income may distract us from other more economically-important forms of interaction.”

All of this is especially interesting at a time when business is not going to be falling over themselves to support the funding of HE.

I don’t know enough to say whether a particular model is right or wrong but certainly an interesting point for debate.


- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Miriam

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Miriam

    http://www.craigslistdecoded.info

    28 Mar 2009, 10:34


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