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The dual frontier: Patented inventions and prior scientific advance

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Science  11 Aug 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6351, pp. 583-587
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9527

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  • Basic research’s ROI: new patents, products, companies and jobs
    • Paul R. Sanberg, Sr. Vice President, Research, Innovation & Knowledge Enterprise, University of South Florida
    • Other Contributors:
      • Andrew D. Hamilton, President, New York University

    MOHAMMAD AHMADPOOR and BENJAMIN F. JONES (“The dual frontier: Patented inventions and prior scientific advance,” Research, 11 Aug 2017, p. 583-587) present compelling documentation of the economic “return on investment” of academic research at a particularly important time for higher education institutions. As lawmakers on both a state and national level consider funding levels for basic science, this article persuasively establishes the linkage between scientific advances and marketplace inventions and presents a compelling case for why investing in basic research is imperative to the future of American economic competitiveness.

    By documenting the “paper-patent” boundary and establishing the life cycle of innovation that begins with basic research, the article establishes that the closest links between basic research and technological innovation exist in some of the most critical fields in national innovation, such as molecular biology, artificial intelligence and superconducting technology. The patented products least connected to basic research, their work finds, are products such as locks, buttons and envelopes. While we might all appreciate a good lock and new buttons, those are not the technologies on which a sustainable economy of the future will be built. Furthermore, in documenting the connection between published papers and eventual patents, the authors make a point not to be missed: Peer-reviewed publication serves as an important, initial quality control...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.