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November 26, 2007


Michael Saunby

You say "Which is why, often, researchers and inventors step out of their labs and get involved in the more downstream, applied work that is necessary to successfully commercialize their ideas."

Is this really done that often? Here in the UK I rather doubt it. Maybe a different culture exists in the US, one where it's OK to spend time away from research trying to make money. It certainly shouldn't come as a surprise that to create a commercial success requires effort in that direction, not just serendipity.

Henry Engler


I think your view about researchers stepping out of their "ivory towers" to engage in more applied research and innovation is spot on, particularly when one considers the tremendous talent the U.S. has in such institutions. Given the increasing debate about America's ability to compete in a much more hyper-competitive global marketplace, it would seem to me that one of our major competitive advantages is the knowledge power we have residing in such universities. To the extent we can leverage that knowledge in the applied sphere we can better secure our position in providing value to the global economy.

Best regards

Henry Engler

Ricardo Pietrobon

Irving, very interesting comments. I completely agree with your point on our current state of "knowing when seeing it." That said, we are at a stage where more effort should be devoted to actually measuring indices of all the intangible value created by the innovation at both universities and R&D in industry. By no means I am saying that this is an easy task, but if we stop for a moment to think that NIH alone spends 28+ billion dollars/year in research, and this is just one institution, we should probably have better indices indicating where our investments are going and what our ROI looks like.

The situation in research today reminds me of federal economic decisions made prior to the 1940s, when the lack of quantitative macro-economic indices made policy making a guessing exercise at best. Again, by no means I am claiming that our current financial indices are perfect, but at least they give us a general picture of what is going on. We certainly cannot say that we have the same degree of trust in how we manage our current research portfolio.

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