We have talked about the decline in corporate research and how that can in turn lead to great opportunity for academic and industry partnerships and furthermore how each entity can leverage their strengths and apply them to working with each other in order to achieve maximum results in collaborations.
The emphasis on commercialization began as early as early as the 1960s when the government started putting pressure on academic institutions – as in, prove that the money spent was money well spent. This also coupled with the fact that researchers and large institutions recognized the complexity of issues to be solved. What can be a bit difficult to reconcile is why the government is only putting financial pressure on universities and not on corporations – probably because they are the bulk sources of funding for universities – but in the equation of transnational research and commercialization, it tilts the scale.
The American culture is very dependent on innovation; coupling this with the financial pressures placed on academic institutions by the government, there is a small surge of supply. It would be prudent to manage the pressures and keep a fairly equal supply and demand with scientific research. In essence there is a bit of a lack of balance – but the synergy between the two entities is so strong, that it is important to find balance even if the institutions themselves (government, universities, and corporations) don’t have overarching guide rules.
So, what is the solution?
At the AUTM Annual Meeting a couple weeks ago the sentiment echoed by many as a response to this was that technology transfer, and it's associate activities, are no longer transaction based. This means that thoughtful and meaningful partnerships are essential. There are some companies that are doing a great job at this like AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Below are a few things that each company is doing to start to set the principles for how basic research can move along the sometimes long and tough road to commercialization.
- AstraZeneca relocated to Cambridge and committed to deepen ties with the University of Cambridge; one way they are doing this is by having a number of researchers work in the same lab as Cambridge researchers. The side by side interaction facilitates a constructive exchange of research information.
- Featured on their Open Innovation page is a wide range of opportunities to connect with them and they pride themselves on engaging the whole spectrum of research.
- Has designated programs to support research scientists
- Works with researchers to validate work, test hypotheses, and provide better compounds
- Co-project manage early development stages so that researchers understand the steps involved in commercialization
- Larger investments like the University of North Carolina HIV Center – GSK provided initial funding and are hoping to gain interest from other special interest groups.