Little I new when I started my Phd in 2009 that the topic Academic Entrepreneurship would be so hot.
On one hand, universities need to generate more income and are doing to engaging in what is called Academic Capitalism. And, they are succeeding, more and more people are studying, both because they want new degrees, upgrades, updates, upsales and all those UPS… at the far end there is the PhDs.
The US alone graduates around 64000 of PhDs per year, half of those enrolled never finish, so that means there is over 100,000 students enrolled per year, at least. On the demand side, well, take a seat, there are 16000 new academic jobs posted every year.
Where are those PhDs going? to post-doctoral positions, a cheap way of having the best brains in society work for nothing, excuse me, for almost nothing, creating the foundations of science and arts that would nurture our economies in the future. Yes, they don’t work alone but with an immense group of amazingly smart people, passionate about their stuff, and constantly looking at the next theory.
In the case of science, they don’t get much further than the lab, or a patent. Long are the days where the US Gov. held patents from publicly funded research: Thirty thousands in 1980, with only 5% in use. It would be interesting to see how those measurements stand out today. Last time I checked the USPTO (patent office) was receiving more than 1000 applications per day.
Then it comes to funding. The bottle neck of high potential firms. The bubble burst before reaching full size. It was the large corporations that have been smart at it. For few years, they set up VC funds, now, they’ve gotten smarter… What are funds used for?
- To explore the market
- To generate marketing and sales materials
- To create a salesforce
- To improve the technology
- To protect and defend the technology
- To streamline processe
- To create a network of suppliers
- To establish a business
The whole system is inefficient. New ventures spend a ton of resources building a company that is then sold to a corporation, which then dismantles the existing workforces and labs to integrate them.
Someone is thinking… Large corporations are setting up fast tracking systems that, strategically, are caught between mergers, joint venturing, and guerrilla funding.
Here is an example http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v29/n1/full/nbt0111-3.html
I personally think we need to give scientists entrepreneurial skills, more appropriate to their needs, neither small business training, nor commercialization techniques or technology transfer. It just doesn’t work.
But at least, someone is thinking… we need to find a new name for the new funding scheme. It will be fun!