Commercialising Public Research

New Trends and Strategies

image of Commercialising Public Research

Public research is the source of many of today’s technologies from the GPS and MRI to MP3 technology. Public research institutions (PRIs) and universities are also an engine of entrepreneurial ventures from biotech start-ups to Internet giants like Google. Today, globalisation, open innovation and new forms of venture financing such as crowd funding are changing the way institutions promote the transfer and commercialisation of public researcher results.

This report describes recent trends in government and university level policies to enhance the transfer and exploitation of public research and benchmarks the patenting and licensing activities of PRIs and universities in a number of OECD countries and regions, including the EU, Australia, Canada, and the US.

Finally, it also showcases, based on case studies of leading institutions in Finland (Aalto Center for Entrepreneurship), Germany (Fraunhofer Institute), the Czech Republic (Technology Transfer Office of the Czech Technical University), Japan (open innovation in firms), United States (National Institutes of Health) a number of good practices for increasing the number of university invention disclosures, accelerate licensing contracts and promote more open innovation practices between universities and firms.





Public research – i.e. research primarily funded with public resources and carried out by public research institutions (PRIs) and research universities (hereafter both referred to as public research organisations [PROs]) – plays an extremely important role in innovation systems. Its sphere of influence touches education, training, skills development, problem solving, creation and diffusion of knowledge, development of new instrumentation, and the storage and transmission of knowledge. But public research has been also the source of significant scientific and technological breakthroughs that have become major innovations, sometimes as by-products of basic scientific research goals and sometimes with no vision of any direct application to a valuable commercial activity. Well-known examples include recombinant DNA techniques, the Internet, the scanning electron microscope and superconducting magnets. While it is inherently difficult to quantify the impact of public research, it has been suggested that around a tenth of innovations would have been delayed in the absence of public research (Mansfield, 1991). In some sectors – such as pharmaceuticals and semiconductors – innovation is far more dependent on public research results.


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