University-Industry Interaction Patterns

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Science  01 Dec 1972:
Vol. 178, Issue 4064, pp. 955-960
DOI: 10.1126/science.178.4064.955


The nation is entering a period when the R & D output must be increased, probably without major increases in resource allocation. Obviously, in this situation, either efficiency or productivity must be increased. Perhaps one of the most wasteful aspects of the national R & D system (and one that received little attention during the golden era of the 15 percent per year expansion) has been the very weak coupling between the university, on the one hand, and industry (or government), on the other. It is a serious error to allege about such coupling that "it has never worked," that the objectives and reward structures of the institutions are such that it cannot work, and so on. The fact is that coupling has never been tried seriously. History shows that the total dollar effort in research that required coupling or that had coupling as its main objective was on the order of $10 million per year (that is, much less than 0.1 percent of the research money spent on U.S. campuses). At the same time, there is little doubt that the experiments which must and will be tried in the immediate future call for innovations in management and changes in the attitude and structure of many universities. In conversations with administrators who have had experience with such programs, I have found strong suggestions of very mixed responses from the universities. In light of these responses, and if effectiveness is a goal, it would be better for those universities that are more wedded to disciplinary research, to single principal-investigator work, not to participate in these new efforts. We need much greater diversity in the styles of university life, and it would be healthy for the academic enterprise if some universities retained a greater degree of detachment from society, while others consciously decided to interact more with it, through the private sector, and made the changes necessary to do so. If initial funding is restricted to those universities that consider university-industry or university-government research a worthy objective and that have a proven track record and a favorable administrative and reward structure, the new programs may well establish a major new pattern of national R & D.

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