Dynamic higher education systems have been a core contributor to the rise of innovation hubs like San Francisco and Boston. In a recent column for Science Business, Matt Van Italie of Canterbury Road Partners elaborated on his vision for replicating similar success in communities with comparatively fewer resources than those two bustling commercial centers.
Van Italie cited the $1.25 billion generated by the University of Wisconsin's technology transfer association as clear evidence that effective intellectual property commercialization need not be a coastal phenomenon. A research institution's ability to assess the strengths, weaknesses and gaps in its portfolio is likely far more predictive of their relative prosperity.
For instance, one popular scenario is the case of the rural university which lacks the entrepreneurial influences often found in major metropolitan areas. When its vast intellectual capital is not met with access to commensurate financial capital, Van Italie suggested that simplifying patent licensing frameworks and engaging with startups that explicitly encourage participation from the scientist inventor could be advantageous adjustments to explore.
The impact of these institutional changes will almost certainly be moderated by the actions of local and federal legislators. With that in mind, the chancellors of 165 American universities recently called upon President Obama and Congressional leaders to focus their attention on the "innovation deficit" that has emerged as a result of inconsistent investment in university research endeavors. Perhaps the most compelling statistic noted in the joint statement was the fact that more than half of all U.S. economic growth since WWII is attributable to technological innovations - the vast majority of which were the product of federally-funded scientific research.