Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Technology transfer and commercialisation

I have been working on a paper on whether or not postgraduate coursework, developed with industry, is a useful mechanism for enabling widespread, practical implementation of scientific research, partly to try to tease out the somewhat confused value and purpose of postgraduate coursework generally. The test case, for this paper, is the (Faculty of Vet Science at Sydney) program in animal breeding management, where we aim to put animal genetics knowledge in the hands of people who will be advising breeders etc. and support economic productivity in the sector. (And yes, I think these things matter too).

I've also been thinking, naturally, about the commercialisation of research and technology transfer, as you do.

Transfer is about getting the research into practice, where it becomes useful...big concern in a knowledge economy where it is clear that the faster it can be converted (or, as it is rather unfortunately phrased, exploited) the more valuable it will be.

Check out the wikipedia entry on technology transfer:

Technology transfer is the process of developing practical applications for the results of scientific research. ... Many companies, universities and governmental organizations now have an "Office of Technology Transfer" dedicated to identifying research which has potential commercial interest and strategies for how to exploit it...

The process to commercially exploit research varies widely. It can involve...
What starts as locating practical uses for research very rapidly becomes research commercialisation so that the use of research and the sale of research amounts to exactly the same thing. Enter long lines of lawyers to ensure research organisations get every cent they are owed for every idea they've ever had.

This has to be a classic case of converting use-value into exchange-value if ever there was one. Even if I think of it only in economic terms (ie not even caring about knowledge in itself) we've gone from converting (A) research into widespread knowledge that underpins the national agricultural productivity into (B) research we can sell to someone on the basis of its convertability, which is quite a different thing.

In both cases the financial value of knowledge is at the core in one way or another, but there is still something new here in knowledge's saleability (Lyotard p. 51) rather than its social and economic value.

Then again, I am a novice in this area. Am I wrong? Have I made any sense at all?

Anyway, back to the paper....maybe the scientists I work with can help me figure this out.

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