Too many in the scientific community, particularly those who control the funding, regard the commercialization of science as something "dirty," says the University of Leeds' Deputy Vice-Chancellor John Fisher in New Scientist. They say "that inspiration alone should be the driving force behind scientific labor," but this is just a "myth," Fisher says. Using the semiconductor industry as an example, he adds that some research can only be done with commercial success in mind. In the West, funders tend to lean heavily toward researchers doing discovery-led work, while research coming out of China and India is focused on economic growth.
"The ongoing battle between bottom-up research and the bottom line is seen all too clearly across the scientific spectrum," Fisher says. "It all comes down to idealism versus pragmatism. The simple truth is that without commercial success, societal benefit will not follow." It is time to start investing in research that will have more impact on society, he adds.