conducted by industrial organizations. Historically, such organizations, such as Bell Labs (which won six Nobel prizes and invented and commercialized such technologies as the transistor and the C programming language), have played a big role in innovation. Although it varies by organization, the amount of research conducted industrially seems to have decreased. But there still is some. For example, in 1993-1994 I did work in R&D at Caterpillar. As another example, we in the Club of Bologna are familiar with John Reid’s efforts at Deere’s Technical Center.
But much of the USA’s research is not conducted in the private sector. It is done in the public sector. The challenge then is to get knowledge from the public sector to the private sector where it can be utilized and commercialized. Thus the title of “transfer of ideas from research to industry” has been given to this session. In the USA, this concept of transferring ideas and knowledge is commonly referred to as “technology transfer”.
It is interesting that this topic is covered at a meeting in Russia. One should be very careful of stereotypes because they are often very wrong. But Russia is known in the USA for its basic research and its theoreticians. Russia’s mathematicians and physicists are regarded as being among the world’s best. But there is a stereotype of that knowledge not being transferred into practical success. Of course, it can be seen that the stereotype is wrong in such concrete successes as Sputnik and MiG jets.
But to the outsider, there appears to be less success in transferring knowledge in agriculture. This has resulted in Russia not achieving her potential over the last years. As Paul Kennedy says in 1987, “The most critical area of weakness in the economy during the entire history of the Soviet Union has been agriculture, which is more amazing when it is recalled that a century ago Russia was one of the two largest grain exporters in the world.” We have seen much progress in laboratories. It seems to me, that for Russia, and many other countries, one of the ways to improve agriculture is to have better technology transfer from the laboratories to practice. Technology transfer has the additional benefit of invariably improving the information flow in the other direction. The experience of transfer and commercialization always educates the researchers on what the real problems and needs are. The researchers learn the true realities.
It is therefore imperative that the Club of Bologna facilitate the sharing of experiences to improve technology transfer. We in the USA are interested in it. Despite the research and development we have within the various universities and the USDA, the value of the food we now import is more than what we export. And segments of the agricultural economy are weak. We need to do a better job of supporting commercial agriculture. As part of this sharing of ideas to improve technology transfer worldwide, I will discuss the situation in the USA.
TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER FROM UNIVERSITIES
The largest amount of public sector research in the USA is performed by universities and the federal government. However, some research is also performed by other governmental bodies and nonprofits.