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PCAST Report: US Government Should Support University-Industry Ties to Bolster 'Innovation Ecosystem'

WASHINGTON, DC (GenomeWeb News) — The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recently issued a set of recommendations on how to improve university-industry research partnerships to promote an “innovation ecosystem” in the US.
The report, University-Private Sector Research Partnerships in the Innovation Ecosystem, was announced and distributed to attendees of a meeting of the University-Industry Demonstration Partnership at the National Academies of Sciences, held here this week.
The report states that the economic and regulatory environments in the US require significant long-term changes, such as modifications to the R&D tax credit; urges the government to develop guidance documents on intellectual property and technology-transfer practices; and seeks changes to federal tax-exempt policies that it claims hinder industry-supported research on university campuses.
In addition, the report urges the government to support a model of open collaboration between industry and academia; to formalize and enhance connection points between the private and public sectors; and to develop tools and metrics to better measure the results of research partnerships.
PCAST has submitted the report to the Bush Administration in recent weeks, and is currently preparing a similar document it plans to deliver to the transition team for President-elect Barack Obama, the council said.
Among its findings, the report includes statistics showing that universities represent the primary engine for discovery research that can lead to innovation, and that the federal government is the primary source of funding for such research.
The report argues that the federal government should recognize and maintain this role even as it explores other partnership models. Speaking about industry’s role, Luis Proenza, president of the University of Akron, Ohio, and co-chair of the PCAST subcommittee on university-private sector research partnerships that compiled the report, said during his address that “there is a tremendous opportunity” for industry to sponsor more research at universities. Currently industry supports about 5 percent of all academic R&D in the US, according to the report.
Discussing the distribution of R&D funding, the report said that US industry surpassed the US government in the early 1980’s in total R&D expenditures, and the gap has widened every year since. Industry is now responsible for approximately 65 percent of all R&D expenditures in the US, according to PCAST.
PCAST also suggested in the report that the Department of Commerce, working with the National Science and Technology Council, develop guidance documents and educational tools supporting intellectual property and technology-transfer practices both for university and private-sector partners.
In addition, citing the success of the X Prize Foundation in driving innovation, the council urged federal agencies to expand the use of cash prizes to encourage scientists to perform challenging research.
Following his presentation, Proenza was asked by an audience member how he thought the incoming Obama administration would affect R&D policy and public-private partnerships in the US. Proenza said that it is too early to tell, but in general “you can probably expect to see a stronger focus on domestic policy and R&D structure.”
He added that although the release of the report was timed so that the Bush administration would receive it, PCAST has also prepared a document to be delivered to the transition team for the new administration.

A more comprehensive version of this article appears in this week's issue of Biotech Transfer Week.

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