recent

Why the Butterball Turkey Talk Line works

MIT awards $1 million in third annual Inclusive Innovation Challenge

4 ways to handle supply chain blind spots

Ideas Made to Matter

Research

Toppling the ivory tower: Public science relies on private sector support

By

MIT Sloan professor Pierre Azoulay says there is immense value in private investment of public science, and he’s got the data to prove it. He also built a database of 12,000 “scientific superstars” to illustrate just how powerful their research and reputations are.

Why investing in scientific research is important to your work
 

“My hope is that collectively [the global business community] would learn that they have very much a stake in this system. They are the great beneficiaries of this system. Because the ways in which to benefit from it are often very delayed, very indirect, and sort of very hard to trace. They are often not aware of it, which also makes them less likely to be the vigorous defenders of the scientific enterprise that they could be — because I think it could be a very effective advocate.”

 “There's been sort of a revolution in the past 10 to 15 years in the use of patents ideation data. We basically gathered this data at a large scale, we harvested it, we developed an algorithm to extract that data from the text of the patent documents.“What that has enabled us to do systematically is to map the entire chain of research from a funded project, say, by the National Institutes of Health, to the publications that come out of those projects. And then often much, much later on, a reference in the patent of a private sector firm to that particular piece of research that came out of the public funding.

And so that gives us a way of measuring intellectual influence. When we tabulate those data, what we can find is that in fact, a pretty high proportion — around 35 percent — of grants produce research that is later on an intellectual influence on private sector efforts, as evidenced by a reference in a patent.”

Data that matters 

“There's been sort of a revolution in the past 10 to 15 years in the use of patents ideation data. We basically gathered this data at a large scale, we harvested it, we developed an algorithm to extract that data from the text of the patent documents.

“What that has enabled us to do systematically is to map the entire chain of research from a funded project, say, by the National Institutes of Health, to the publications that come out of those projects. And then often much, much later on, a reference in the patent of a private sector firm to that particular piece of research that came out of the public funding.

And so that gives us a way of measuring intellectual influence. When we tabulate those data, what we can find is that in fact, a pretty high proportion — around 35 percent — of grants produce research that is later on an intellectual influence on private sector efforts, as evidenced by a reference in a patent.”

What should you focus on in the future?

“So one thing we can observe in our data is how long things take. It tends to take at least 10 years for a piece of research to yield a citation in a patent. What's important to remember is the citation of the patent is only the beginning of the process for a pharmaceutical firm. There's probably 10 more years of development, right? So, most of the National Institutes for Health portfolio, if it's going to have an effect on the well-being of humankind, we're talking about sort of a 20-year lag.”

 
What to read after you listen

Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?

Related Articles