The North Campus Research Complex, Technology Transfer, and the Public Interest

Date & time

Feb 14, 2011, 4:00-5:30 pm EST


Leah Nichols, Postdoctoral Fellow in Science, Technology, and Public Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Commentator: Jason Owen-Smith, Associate Professor of Sociology and Organizational Studies, University of Michigan

Co-sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute

Abstract: For the past thirty years, significant policy attention has been given to improving the transfer of technology from universities to private industry in an effort to improve U.S. global competitiveness. These policies have changed the academic model from one of passive knowledge production into one of aggressive participation in the innovation ecosystem. The University of Michigan's new venture accelerator, the North Campus Research Complex, is one example of this trend. However, we must continue to scrutinize the effects of this new alignment of university and industrial interests on public interest research-or non-commercializable research done solely to benefit the public. Is public interest research waning? Can we bolster public interest research in academia by improving the transfer of non-commercial knowledge to nonprofit or public organizations? This paper discusses the history of university-industry interaction, explores several models of successful non-commercial technology transfer mechanisms, and suggests an expanded purview for the North Campus Research Complex.

LEAH NICHOLS is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program in the Ford School of Public Policy. Her research examines the social mechanisms that direct and shape science. She focuses on how non-academic actors (e.g. government and industry) influence the research agendas of academic biologists. She also studies non-commercial mechanisms of technology transfer as a means of distributing knowledge and technology to benefit nonprofit, public interest goals. At the Ford School, she teaches Innovation Policy and Global Environmental Governance. She received her BS in Environmental Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her PhD in Energy and Resources from the University of California, Berkeley. She was also recently a Christine Mirzayan Science Policy Fellow at the National Academy of Sciences where she worked with the Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy.