Universities are not only on the front lines of scientific and technological discovery but also at times hotbeds of entrepreneurship. In 2010 alone 651 new startup companies formed around the commercialization of university-licensed technology, and more than 3,600 such small businesses founded in previous years continue to operate.
But many promising patents remain stuck in university labs, inaccessible to the market. The result: Despite the roughly $50 billion of federal dollars spent annually on university research, too few new technologies make it through the pipeline from paper, to patent, to product.
There are many structural and cultural reasons why many universities do not maximize the potential of their small-business technology spinoffs. A key one is that the federal funding on which much university research depends does not encourage universities to prioritize the commercialization of the resulting technology.
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