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Transfer of Ideas from Research to Industry: The Case of the United States of America

John K. Schueller

University of Florida

prepared for presentation at a meeting of the

Club of Bologna

11 - 12 October 2007

Moscow, Russian Federation

Successful research and development is widely regarded as important because it leads to innovation.   Such innovation is needed to be competitive.   But successful research and development, while a necessary condition, is not a sufficient condition for innovation and competitiveness.   The successful transfer of ideas and knowledge from research to industry is also important.  

The successful transfer of ideas is needed in the contemporary world.  It leads to national strength in such important areas as military, energy, and food security and to economic strength.  Without productive and efficient industry, progress cannot be achieved in today’s globalized world.  Historically, this is necessary for both commercial and political strength.  As Table 1 implies, economic strength has political implications.

1913

Germany/Austria-Hungary

19.2%

France/Russia/Britain

27.9%

1938

Germany/Japan/Italy

19.9%

USA/UK/USSR

55.5%

Table 1:  Percentage of World’s Manufacturing Output

(based upon data from Kennedy, 1987)

Nations still need to maintain economic strength to maintain stability and sovereignty.  But they also need to provide their inhabitants with food, water, and energy and to protect the environment.   To do so, new ideas and knowledge are needed.  But the ideas and knowledge must not only be generated, but they must be put into practice.  Otherwise they are just intellectual curiosities.  So they must be transferred to industry and commercialized.

In the United States of America (USA), most research and development (R&D) is performed within industrial companies.  Much of that R&D is applied, but there still is a significant amount of basic research.   Unfortunately, the concentration on short-term performance of companies and their stocks has greatly reduced the amount of basic research

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