Tony Stanco, chief executive of NCET2, said the problem universities faced at the earliest stage of their research was in deciding which ideas might lead to which outcomes: an IPO or trade sale/license.

The attention being focused on how to commercialise research organisations, whether at universities, government institutes or corporate laboratories, is becoming more intense.

This is only right. As the groundspring of basic and applied research that helps leads to the innovations that disrupt or develop markets, everyone should be interested in what is being looked at and how these ideas make their way into society.

The increased intensity of focus is now apparent as the impact of globalization of people, ideas and capital.

For entrepreneur and author Steve Blank in a series of blog posts after visiting China summed up how interconnected the state, universities and entrepreneurialism can be.

His third post on the topic said: “China’s move away from a state system that solely depended on a command and control economy started in the 1990s. The first wave of startups began when R&D centers and universities began to provide the technology and seed capital for new startups that were spin-outs or spin-offs. This could be a group of individuals leaving a university or research center or an entire department leaving.

“For example, in the 1990s 85% of the start-up funds of the new technology companies founded in Beijing came from the research center or university they left…. The founding of domestic VC firms began with the establishment of local government-financed venture capital firms, followed by university-backed VC firms.”

In the US, while there is concern about the impact of the sequester-driven budget cuts to research and grant funding, the model of government, corporate and research connections has proved resilient and highly successful over the past few decades.

This issue sees the write-up of the US-based National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer’s (NCET2) 7th Annual University Startups Showcase and Conference, which highlights the ways these connections are being made and continued.

And while the US leads with the most number of top-ranked universities, according to data providers such as QS, other countries are competing increasingly fiercely for the title.

To maintain its lead, US universities are setting up venturing funds to seed their entrepreneurs and also looking for an advantage through how they link academia with commerce.

The Startup University, a project led by the US Small Business Administration (SBA), aims to provide meaningful connections between universities and the “startup ecosystem” through an online platform.

While in Silicon Valley, California, this month has seen the inaugural meeting of the Research Innovation Corporate Ecosystem, “a forum for corporate research and development (R&D) and innovation executives who seek to build and benefit from external research and innovation partnerships, networks and ecosystems regionally and globally”. 

These efforts are fitting into a global ecosystem developing round the ideas of open innovation and sharing best practices to avoid over-vetting early-stage business ideas or setting too high expectations or valuations on them.

Ideas can change the world but given the implosion in valuations in clean-technology areas, such as solar panels, in recent years, there are perils in believing the hype rather than looking at the cost of production and the technology risk in moving from a pilot to commercial reality.

Tony Stanco, chief executive of NCET2, said the problem universities faced at the earliest stage of their research was in deciding which ideas might lead to which outcomes: an IPO or trade sale/license.

This difficulty in standing alone was because of the challenges in funding a new factory or production line, which can run into billions of dollars, to develop the idea. As a result, Stanco said these types of entrepreneurial students or business often looked to the global 1000 largest companies for funding or acquisitions rather than venture capital firms.

Stanco will be discussing these ideas at our sister title, Global Corporate Venturing’s, third annual Symposium in London, UK, next month and there will be a sector-themed roundtable discussion between entrepreneurs, corporations and research institutes in life sciences.

This sector is the hardest to commercialise spin-offs, according to guest comment from Chris Hayter, executive director of the New York Academy of Science’s Policy Evaluation & Transformation Group.

The challenges for the community remain clear but the drivers to realize methods to improve current practices are also too-large to ignore.