Proceedings of the


by Richard C. Atkinson

No issue facing American research universities in the 1990s goes more directly to the heart of the academic enterprise than the question of putting ideas to work. The long tradition of Western universities has been to value knowledge for its own sake. But a strong counterpoint over the centuries, and especially in American academic life, has been the value assigned to knowledge that directly serves society. The University of California, which produces more research leading to patented inventions than any other public or private research university in the nation, has special reason to look at the principles and practices that guide its activities in bringing research from the laboratory to the marketplace.

The President's Retreat on the University of California's Relationships with Industry in Research and Technology Transfer grew out of two convictions. First, over the past few decades the explosion of university research with commercial applications--the biotechnology industry is only the most celebrated example--has rendered some of our mechanisms for working with industry out of date, others in need of careful re-examination. Second, in coming years research universities will be called upon to do more, not less, to put ideas to work.

The purpose of the retreat was to take a candid look at our relationships with industry and to assess the rewards and the risks of industry-university partnerships, current and future. It was also to learn more about what the private sector expects of us and what we can do to encourage greater access to University-developed technologies. The ultimate goal of the retreat, however, was and is even broader--to stimulate a re-examination of how we can better serve the people of California through the application of new ideas, especially in light of the challenges and opportunities presented by the era of unparalleled intellectual discovery in which we live.

This report is therefore neither narrow nor technical. Nor is it meant only for researchers and administrators involved in intellectual property issues. It is intended to stimulate a conversation throughout the University about the kind of institution we are and the kind of future we should be creating for ourselves as a research university. This document reflects two days of intense discussions on a wide range of topics, from reconciling risk-taking and accountability, to involving students in collaborative research, to clarifying the roles of the campuses on the one hand and the Office of the President on the other. It does not reflect a unanimity of opinion. The retreat participants believed the University-wide discussion would be better served by including dissenting as well as consensual views.

Recommendations for policy and action will be developed as the University-wide discussion unfolds. I hope these proceedings and the resulting recommendations will be discussed and debated on every campus and in every laboratory, by scientists and humanists, administrators and faculty, students and sponsors of research.

We owe a special debt of thanks to our colleagues from industry who shared their wisdom and experience with us. Their presence was essential to the discussions we began in January at UCLA and hope to continue throughout the University of California.

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