This week’s Nature journal features an interesting article entitled “Papers to patents” authored by Ashish Arora et al. (Nature 552: S10; see here). The article highlights that US industry is spending less on research and development (R&D), while US academia’s research output is increasing. The authors suggest this trend is creating an innovation gap, for two main reasons: (1) the scale and integrated nature of research undertaken in large corporations cannot easily be replicated in universities; and (2) collaboration between R&D and manufacturing sectors within industry is a source of innovation unlikely to arise in academia.
While the volume and value of journal publications from US industry is diminishing, patents are becoming increasingly valuable for both US industry and academia. The latter phenomenon is attributable in part to the Bayh–Dole Act adopted in the US in 1980, permitting academic institutions to own inventions (and thus patents) arising from publicly funded research. US academic institutions are now more likely to commercialise their research, resulting in a correlated increase in the filing of patent applications.
Arora et al. suggest that although an innovation ecosystem where most research is performed by academia or small start-up companies may be more adaptable and efficient, concerns about the developing innovation gap continue.
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