Unchallenged Assumptions About Innovation Meet Shibboleths of University Tech Transfer
Laurie Thomas Vass
The Private Capital Market
June 4, 2008
Our interest in writing this article is to create a bridge between the scholarly and academic research on technological innovation and a private sector, for-profit business model that implements the ideas on innovation and entrepreneurship, primarily in metro regional economies.
We begin by noting that many of the scholarly articles about innovation start with an unchallenged assumption about the economic benefits of innovation. Typical of such an opening statement is: "Innovation drives economic growth. Economic growth leads to longer, healthier lives by transforming yesterday's luxuries into better, cheaper, and more efficient goods and services." (Proof of Concept Centers: Accelerating the Commercialization of University Innovation, January 2008).
There are two misleading impressions obtained from this type of unchallenged assumption made by scholars whose authority as experts is relied upon by non-experts. First, innovation as an activity does not lead to any type of economic activity without market demand. Second, the creation of market demand occurs over a period of years, not instantaneously, as depicted by the image of the Walraisian auctioneer.
There is a logical sequence of events that must occur over a period of time that are contingent upon market forces before innovation leads to beneficial economic growth. Many academic writers tend to condense this period of time into an instantaneous moment. This unchallenged assumption seems particularly virulent in the writings about the social and economic value of university tech transfer programs.
We review the work of Chris Armbruster, of the Max Planck Institute, who states flatly that, "The Entrepreneurial University is a failed idea." (Research Universities: Autonomy and Self-Reliance After the Entrepreneurial University, 2008). His main thesis concerns the value of open scientific knowledge flows and diversity as precursor environmental conditions to innovation.
We conclude that innovation must be connected to the market demand through a complex market infrastructure that transmits market information back through industrial value chains in the technology commercialization process.
Innovation may, contingently, create new future markets.
New future markets open up career pathways and wealth opportunities not constrained by the allegiance to the status quo distribution of income or political power.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 6
Keywords: University tech transfer, industrial value chains, innovation, economic development, technology investments
JEL Classification: L16, O31, O32, O33, O38, R15, R58
Date posted: September 23, 2008