Thursday, 20 December 2007

Postgraduate coursework and technology transfer

Further to technology transfer and knowledge commercialisation, here is an excerpt from the draft of the paper I have just completed. BTW this paper is also the most sciencey thing I have ever written...and it feels a bit weird, actually. But that is another story. Overall, the paper considers whether postgraduate coursework might function as a non-commercialised (or semi-commercialised, more likely) form of technology transfer.

"Industry, academic and student surveys all demonstrated a significant need and value for technology transfer, enabling animal genetics research to be used for practical purposes. However, in recent years, University-originated technology transfer has come to be equated with research commercialization, so that practical application is now almost synonymous with purchasable knowledge. In the case of animal breeding, widespread possession of knowledge of animal genetics underpins enhanced breeding programs and therefore economic performance, contributing to national productivity – a good technology transfer outcome. However, the false equivalence in this case of technology transfer with commercialization means that the contractual value of knowledge is over-simplistically construed as exchange value. Since the contractual system fails to identify the real economic gains of education, it fixates on sale value and therefore the competitive over the collaborative, adding significant costs and inefficiencies (cf Marginson 1993, p. 198). This is certainly not to say that universities should receive no benefits from this approach to technology transfer. Indeed, in this case universities were to receive external funding for course development and fee income for teaching. However, where widespread possession of knowledge and skills – transferred in this case through teaching – is of benefit to national economic performance and public good, a structure that encourages universities to use intellectual property arrangements to impose an artificial scarcity on knowledge, is likely to do more harm than good (Marginson 1993, p. 198).

A 2000 report to government suggested that the “major weakness” in technology transfer in Australia occurs at the point where research ends and transfer needs to begin (Commonwealth-of-Australia 2000, p. 27). By positioning it as neither undergraduate education nor research training but somewhere in between (and more), postgraduate coursework can potentially function to effectively fill the gap between research and application. It can achieve this by connecting researchers and professional practitioners, research and practice, academic coursework and professional training."

Full draft of the paper can be found here

This is mostly me and it is probably not fair to blame all my colleagues and co-authors for it to date. It has had some real input and most likely represents the views of my colleague at Meat & Livestock Australia, Dr Rob Banks, my wonderful Ed Design colleague Ruth Laxton and the ever-impressive Rosanne Taylor.