Universities that foster strong technology ecosystems, offer research career incentives, encourage cross-organization collaboration, and have leaders who emphasize the importance of innovation are the most successful when it comes to developing and marketing lab-created products, according to a new study by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
U-M, with support from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), studied public research universities across North America to identify best practices for bringing new products to market.
The university hopes to improve national competitiveness by providing a roadmap on how to move research from the lab to the marketplace.
“Universities face increased demands for translating research to innovations that can serve the public good,” says Paula Sorrell, director of the U-M Economic Growth Institute, which led the study. “By identifying best practices, researchers created a foundation that can guide universities and labs, as well as policymakers, on how to increase the impact of the nation’s research institutions.”
The researchers interviewed and surveyed representatives at 59 Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU)-designated Innovation and Economic Prosperity (IEP) Universities and identified best practices.
Universities must have leadership that promotes innovation internally to faculty and to the surrounding community, strong technology ecosystems that are dependent upon professionals with industry and commercialization backgrounds that can assist in the maturation of a technology through expert guidance and mentorship, offer career incentives to motivate and reward new ideas as well as offer necessary resources, and encourage cross-organization collaborations to foster ideas and improve outcomes.
The researchers will share the practices with universities and federal laboratories to address gaps in the commercialization process, mentorship, and culture.
“This study is an important contribution to a larger NIST initiative to increase the returns from the $150-billion federal investment in research and development,” says Walter Copan, director of NIST and undersecretary of commerce for standards and technology. “We’re grateful to the University of Michigan for the insights they have provided through this significant study with APLU of innovation best practices.”
NIST helps coordinate federal technology transfer, leading the Interagency Working Group for Technology Transfer, serving as the host agency for the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer, and performing governmentwide analysis of efforts to move the results of federally funded research and development from lab to market.
The findings also can help promote the importance of research funding from government, industry, and other partners.
“Public research universities work hard to ensure that discoveries made in their labs can be translated into technologies that save lives, strengthen our national security, and improve our quality of life,” says Sheila Martin, vice president for economic development and community engagement at APLU. “The institutions designated as IEP universities serve as outstanding models for how other schools can ensure their lab activities translate into technologies that benefit the United States and society overall.”
The IEP universities designation program helps higher education institutions codify and advance their enterprises supporting economic and community development while providing national recognition to institutions committed to university economic development. Institutions must complete a self-study and stakeholder engagement process, identify their economic development strengths, and areas of growth and improvement to earn the designation.
A summary of the report and the full report are available here.