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University commercialization strategies in the development of regional bioclusters*

J PROD INNOV MANAG 2008;25:129–142r 2008 Product Development & Management Association University Commercialization Strategies in the Development of Shiri M. Breznitz, Rory P. O’Shea, and Thomas J. Allen To analyze university contribution to economic development, the present studyexamines universities’ technology transfer policies and their associated economicdevelopment impact. The article examines how a university defines itself as part of aregion as well as what activities, if any, do university commercialization strategiesin context of their regional environment affect spin-off activity. Furthermore, thisstudy explores the ways universities contribute to regional economic development byexamining existing theories and analyzing universities’ relationships with both gov-ernment and industry in two regions. This study draws from Roberts and Malone’s(1996) selectivity–support typology and highlights this article’s argument by com-paring the commercialization strategies of world-class universities strategies in thedevelopment of regional biotechnology clusters in Massachusetts and in Connect-icut. This article investigates the notion of whether universities can differentlyinfluence the economic development processes of the while still having successfulcommercial outcomes. These findings build on previous research (Clarysse et al.,2005; Degroof and Roberts, 2004; Powers and McDougall, 2005), which arguesthat low support–low selectivity policies may be more suitable to entrepreneuriallydeveloped environments, whereas high support–high selectivity policies are moreefficient Institute of Technology (MIT) is located in a strong technopole region, wherebymany of its support structures for spin-off formation are provided by the regionalinfrastructure of the Cambridge–Boston region. In contrast, Yale University, whichhas an underdeveloped entrepreneurial context, has had to take a more proactiverole in providing incubation capabilities to their spin-off projects. This finding sup-ports a contingent based perspective of academic entrepreneurship, whereby lowsupport–low selectivity policies are more fitted to entrepreneurially developedenvironments, whereas high support–high selectivity policies are more efficient inentrepreneurially underdeveloped environments.
Address correspondence to: Shiri M. Breznitz, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Place, CambridgeCB2 3EN. E-mail: sb443@cam.ac.uk.
à The authors contributed equally to the writing of this paper.
ÃÃ We thank the guest co-editors Michael Song and Robert Litan and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions. Partialsupport for this manuscript was provided by the Institute for Entre-preneurship and Innovation and the University of Missouri-KansasCity, the MIT Industrial Performance Center (IPC), the Cambridge I n theories of regional economic development, universities play an important role. Severalsuch theories view the university as an institu- tion that generates knowledge, encourages the diffu- Political Economy Society Trust, and The STE program at the SamuelNeaman Institute. The authors would like to express our gratitude to sion of new ideas on which innovation is based, and Lita Nelsen, Director of the Technology Licensing Office at MIT, and creates skilled personnel and entrepreneurs. Critically, John Soderstrom, Director of the Office of Cooperative Research atYale University. All errors and omissions remain entirely our own.
in many theories the university is viewed as the basic S.M. BREZNITZ, R.P. O’SHEA, AND T.J. ALLEN factor in a knowledge-based economy and a center with regional economic development and knowledge around which new industrial clusters are likely to creation have touched on the role of the university.
emerge. However, none of these theories see the uni- Industrial district theories still portray the universities versity as a social agent. Furthermore, these studies as the source of knowledge for developing and up- do not provide a constructive generalized explanation dating technologies and an important source of qual- to the ways universities can contribute to their local ified employees, analyzing them as institutions and economy and whether there is only one way to achieve not active agents (Markusen, 1996; Piore and Sabel, such a goal. The purpose of this study is to highlight 1984; Porter, 1990). Collective learning and innova- the commercialization strategies taken by a university tive milieu theories see the university as part of the that influences its region’s economy. To understand knowledge creation process (Camagni, 1991; Keeble the role of the university in regional economic devel- and Wilkinson, 1999; Lawson and Lorenz, 1999).
opment, this study analyzes the duality of the rela- However, the university is still seen primarily as a tionships between university and industry. This article nonactive player in economic development.
finds that universities have multiple ways they can One way to examine the role of the university in make a positive impact on their local economy.
regional economic development is through the cre- Traditionally, the roles of the university were to ation of start-ups from academic research. As a result, educate students and to conduct basic research. Over a new body of literature concentrating on the eco- the years and throughout the scientific revolutions, nomic contributions of the university to society has universities have taken on another role, becoming developed. A prominent focus has been given to the central players in regional and national economic contribution of the university to knowledge transfer.
development. Different bodies of literature dealing In this body of literature, the university providesknowledge with which industry can develop new tech-nologies and promote economic development (Brez- nitz and Anderson, 2006; Clarysse et al., 2005; Di Ms. Shiri M. Breznitz is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Gregorio and Shane, 2003; Henderson, 2006; O’Shea Geography at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
Her research interests include university-industry relationships; re- et al., 2005; Shane, 2004; Slater and Mohr, 2006).
gional economic development; and the development of the biotech- Most of the literature reviews this process as a new nology industry, its locational impacts, and its relationships with task for universities, a task that has been inevitably public research institutes. Ms. Breznitz has published in the Cana-dian Journal of Regional Science and in MassBenchmarks.
added to universities’ roles due to historical changes(Etzkowitz et al., 2000; Minshall, Druilhe, and Prob- Dr. Rory O’Shea is a lecturer at the Michael Smurfit GraduateSchool of Business, University College Dublin, Ireland. Previously, ert, 2004). However, even these theories do not ex- he held the position of a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Sloan School of plain the exact ways universities promote regional Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His economic development or why they vary in their abil- primary research interest concerns the commercialization of aca- ity to create start-ups at a regional level. An under- demic research with a particular focus on the optimal organizationalmechanisms for transferring university technologies into spin-off standing of these different actions and their outcomes companies. He has published a number of articles in journals in- can provide a much needed explanation to how spe- cluding Organization Studies, Research Policy, R&D Management, cific economic results can be achieved, allowing for and Journal of Technology Transfer. He is currently coediting abook, Building Technology Transfer within Research Universities, for feasible local economic predictions and appropriate Dr. Thomas J. Allen is professor of management in the Sloan To analyze university contribution to economic de- School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technol- velopment, this study examines universities’ technol- ogy (MIT) and is codirector of MIT’s programs on the pharma- ogy transfer policies and their associated economic ceutical industry and the lean aircraft initiative. He was director of development impact. It examines how a university MIT’s International Center for Research on the Management ofTechnology. Dr. Allen is currently studying matrix structures, or- defines itself as part of a region, as well as what ganization design, and architecture and the aging of technical activities, if any, do university commercialization groups. Dr. Allen is well known for his groundbreaking studies strategies in context of their regional environment on the problem-solving and communication behaviors of engineersand scientists and the role of the technical gatekeeper for effective affect spin-off activity. Accordingly, this study ex- knowledge and information transfer. Dr. Allen is the author of plores the ways universities in two regions collaborate Managing the Flow of Technology (MIT Press, 1984) and coauthor with both government and industry. In particular, this (with Gunter Henn) of The Organization and Architecture of Inno-vation (Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006).
article draws from Roberts and Malone’s (1996)selectivity–support argument by comparing the commercialization strate- of each university’s evolution and development in the gies of world-class universities strategies in the devel- context of commercialization strategies in a particular Massachusetts and in Connecticut. It investigates Second, for many institutions in the United States, the notion of whether universities can influence the the path to enhanced start-up creation is not an easy economic development processes of the regions dif- or smooth one. According to a recent study by O’Shea ferently while still having successful commercial out- et al. (2005) the average research university in the comes. Roberts and Malone put forward a typology United States generates a low average of 1.91 spin- of two entrepreneurial dimensions that are key in an- offs per annum, despite attracting large funding en- alyzing spin-off policies: level of selectivity and level dowments from both federal and industry sources.
of support of academic institutions. First, the low This mean value also masks a highly skewed distri- support–low selectivity policy consists of spinning off bution in the data in which the most productive uni- many ventures, but with little support. It reduces the versity, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), cost of spinning off but seeks safety in numbers. Sec- spawned 31 spin-offs in one year alone (O’Shea et al., ond, the high support–high selectivity strategy con- 2005). Successful spin-off efforts are difficult to sists of spinning off a few well-supported ventures. It mount, if only because of the continuing inability to relies on picking potential winners and supporting make sense of the longitudinal character and the com- them to increase their chance as much as possible plex forces that give rise to spin-off creation. Further- more, our knowledge of successful forms of action is Drawing from this typology, the present article no less limited. Despite having acquired information argues that universities influence the economic devel- from a variety of spin-off programs, we have yet to opment processes of the regions differently from one distinguish attributes of successful programs that are another. Different approaches to technology transfer institutional specific from those that are more gener- at different universities can result in similar outcomes ally essential. Moreover, we have not been able to tell for respective regions. Thus, as this study shows, both institutional officials what procedures they should fol- top-down and bottom-up university initiatives can con- low to initiate successful retention programs suited to tribute to economic development. According to this their own financial needs and resources. This study study, each university, prior to launching its techno- addresses this limitation by assessing the mechanisms logy transfer policy, must evaluate the existing condi- in which policies, operating both independently and tions in its institution and region and must implement through interaction, appear to influence an outcome the policy that will best suit its region’s economy.
in the form of biotech spin-off companies at the uni-versity level.
Finally, existing studies describe cases in which universities have contributed to the economy in gen-eral and to industry in particular. However, these With increasing pressure on universities to generate studies do not provide a constructive generalized ex- economic returns from federal research and develop- planation regarding the ways universities can contrib- ment (R&D) funding, coupled with unemployment ute to their local economy and whether there is only and outsourcing challenges, the debate as to how pol- one way to achieve such a goal. The present article icymakers and academics can foster technology-based finds that universities can employ multiple strategies entrepreneurship from universities has become an to make a positive impact on their local economy and important issue for national governments. Analysis outlines the mechanisms entrepreneurial universities of academic entrepreneurship through spin-offs in a can adopt to make positive regional economic impact.
comparative context has been particularly neglectedyet is of growing importance for both researchers andpractitioners (Chapple et al., 2005). By examining academic entrepreneurship in differing institutionalenvironments this article seeks to provide an analysis To accomplish this task, multiple sources of evidence on the use and limitations of existing conceptual were used to investigate MIT and Yale University’s approaches. A study of this sort can provide an spin-off activity: semistructured interviews, MIT opportunity for an in-depth longitudinal examination and Yale websites, books, and archival documents.
S.M. BREZNITZ, R.P. O’SHEA, AND T.J. ALLEN Furthermore, a number of quantitative databank transfer, MIT was created with a regional develop- sources were used for analysis: the National Science ment focus in mind. Thus, Yale had to develop Foundation (NSF), Association of University Tech- programs and promote technology transfer and en- trepreneurship within the university at a time when Council (NRC), US News & World Report, and the MIT was leading the model of university–industry Center for University Performance Research.
MIT and Yale are very reputable research univer- sities, with a strong life science research orientation.
Theoretically, both should have a beneficial influence on the local economy, resulting in a leading biotechcluster. However, until the late 1990s, Yale, which had The New Haven metropolitan area is home to seven an aloof attitude toward the local economy, did not institutions of higher learning, which provide access develop a biotechnology cluster, whereas in contrast to cutting-edge research in critical areas such as med- MIT contributed to the development of one of the icine, information technology, biotechnology, and ar- largest biotechnology clusters in the world (Saxenian, chitecture. The most notable of New Haven’s schools 1994). Biotechnology is a particularly appropriate is Yale University, the third oldest institution of high- subject for the nature of this article. The biotechnol- er learning in America. Yale was established in 1701 ogy industry relies on basic research mostly done in in Killingworth, Connecticut. It moved to its current university laboratories. Furthermore, the biotechnol- ogy industry has been instrumental in the renewal of Historically, Yale did not promote applicable re- interest in university–industry relationships and the search or industry collaboration. Hence, in 1994, Yale commercialization potential of university research spent $224,939,000 on R&D and only registered 16 patents. It is interesting to compare these figures with The present article is structured as follows: This MIT, which spent $374,768,000 on R&D in that year section provides a brief overview of the contribution and registered 99 patents (NSF, 2003). Whereas Yale of the university to economic development through spent $14,058,388 per patent, MIT spent $3,785,535 knowledge transfer, exploring the problems with the per patent. These figures show that MIT produces analysis of universities in existing bodies of literature.
more patents per research dollar. Furthermore, for The following section provides a historical and polit- many years Yale was not as active in technology ical review at the regional and national levels in which transfer and by 1993 had spun out only three bio- the Boston–Cambridge and New Haven, Connecticut, technology companies. Until 1993, compared with biotechnology clusters developed to provide an un- MIT, which had spun out 30 biotechnology compa- derstanding of the policy and economic framework nies, Yale had spun out three companies, and only in which the two universities operate. After that, the one, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, stayed in the region.
article examines the high selectivity–support policies These figures are broadly consistent with the reputa- employed by Yale to develop the biotechnology clus- tion of Yale at that time as an institution that was ter in New Haven, contrasting this in the preceding only peripherally and episodically involved with the section with MIT’s approach, whereby a low selectiv- local economy and community. As President Richard ity–support model in the creation and the develop- C. Levin noted years later (Yale Office of Public ment of the biotechnology cluster was employed. The final section draws implications for each of thesestrategies and provides a view of the two cases, sug- Outsiders have long regarded the presence of Yale as gesting new ways to examine university contributions one of the city’s major assets, but, except for episodic engagement, the University’s contributions to thecommunity did not derive from an active, consciousstrategy of urban citizenship. It is true that our stu-dents, for more than a century, have played a highly constructive role as volunteers. Even a decade ago,two thousand students volunteered regularly in This section reviews the environments in which Yale and MIT operate. This article finds that although kitchens, and homeless shelters, but these volunteer Yale had to change its culture to foster technology efforts were neither coordinated nor well supported institutionally. When I became president in 1993, instead on opportunistic specific interactions between there was much to be done to transform Yale into their investigators and individual researchers at these an active, contributing institutional citizen . . . In pri- or years, however, the university had taken a rela- In summary, in the period prior to 1993 and up to tively passive attitude toward the commercialization 1996, the region had the availability of a knowledge base, skilled human resources, demand for goods andservices, and a supporting industry—conditions that With the exception of a few departments such as could result in the creation and development of a pharmacology, Yale faculty members were not en- biotechnology cluster. Yet by 1993 there were only couraged to work on research with practical applica- six local biotechnology companies (not including tions during this period. It was actually implied that Exilexus and Genelogic, which had left previously) the outcome of such involvement would have an un- in Connecticut compared with 129 in Massachusetts favorable result on one’s academic career. As one in- at the same point in time. Unlike MIT, Yale is a late terviewee who served on the Yale faculty during the bloomer in fostering economic development. Only late 1960s observed, ‘‘One of the things that depressed within the last decade has Yale begun to move away me was that they did not want to do any application.
from the ivory tower approach and to recognize the You could consult but it was not a good status.’’ importance of economic development near the cam- There were important discoveries during that period, pus. According to Leonard Bell, a former Yale pro- but the Office of Cooperative Research (OCR) had a fessor who is founder and chief executive of Alexion somewhat passive view toward commercialization, Pharmaceuticals Inc., one of the oldest and largest and only a few discoveries were patented (One inven- New Haven-based biopharmaceutical companies, tion patented during this period was the profitable ‘‘Yale has gone from an insular focus on basic re- drug Zerit, which was licensed to Bristol-Myers search to acknowledging in the early 1990s that there Squibb and is part of the AIDS cocktail).
are exciting commercial opportunities in biotechnol- Today the Connecticut cluster employs 17,985 peo- [There was] Very little applied research in biology, ple directly and 35,857 through indirect and induced maybe in the medical school or pharmacology, chem- employment. It consists of 49 biotechnology compa- istry department. In the biology department it was nies. Five of the biotech companies are publicly trad- looked down upon. For example we made the first ed: Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Neurogen, Curagen, experiments on the transgenic mouse and they [OCR] Gennesiance, and Vion Pharmaceuticals. Of the bio- considered that not to be worthwhile in terms of in-vention. Yale was very conservative for many years.
tech companies, 24 companies, or 49%, of the bio- Not a very active program. Yale actually lost a lot of technology cluster in New Haven were created after intellectual property because of this culture. They did 1996 with technology, ideas, or founders from Yale and with the help of the OCR. The majority of thebiotechnology companies in this area work in the hu- An examination of the local industry prior to 1993 man therapeutic sector. This includes companies that finds Connecticut as the host of five pharmaceutical work in more than one sector. The results in Figure 1 companies: Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Purdue, are based on the self-definition of 15 companies in the Bayer, and Boehringer Ingelheim. These companies cluster (based on this study’s survey).
have a major presence in the state, including researchfacilities; four of these companies are located in theNew Haven metropolitan area. In 1995, a total of $1.2 billion was spent on pharmaceutical R&D in Con- necticut itself (6% of the nation’s total). The compa- nies operated research-oriented facilities, staffed with scientists with a deep knowledge base in biomedicine.
However, interactions with researchers at Yale and other local universities have been limited. At the time, none of these companies had established institutional Figure 1. The Biotechnology Cluster in New Haven Metropolitan relationships with local research institutes, relying S.M. BREZNITZ, R.P. O’SHEA, AND T.J. ALLEN R&D expenditures by the pharmaceutical industry R. Kahn, Ph.D., a bioscientist by training, has been in Connecticut have doubled since 1995 and today appointed to lead CI’s investments in bioscience (CI account for more than 12% of all R&D dollars spent invests in many fields and not just biotechnology).
by pharmaceutical companies nationwide (CURE, Two major sources of funds are available to the local 2003)—compared with 6% of all R&D expenditures in 1995. The local pharmaceutical companies have (1) The Connecticut BioSeed Fund: This $5 million significantly changed their behavior to give more fund, administered by CI, provides seed capital to weight to the local intellectual base. There are con- address the initial financial needs of young Con- stant connections between local pharma and the local necticut companies, sustaining them until they are universities and research institutes, cultivated by able to attract a lead institutional biotech investor Yale’s OCR, the local biotechnology association, Connecticut United for Excellence (CURE), and the (2) The Bioscience Facilities Fund: This $60 million Office of Bioscience. Pfizer chose to use the local fund underwrites the development of incubator knowledge base by developing a direct relationship and lab space. The state legislature created the with Yale. Pfizer invested $35 million in a 60,000- fund in 1998, with $30 million of state monies, square-foot clinical trial facility in downtown New and charged CI with its management. CI contrib- Haven between Park and Howe Streets, an area uted an additional $10 million, using proceeds owned by the State of Connecticut. Bayer initiated a from its equity investments. Since then the fund scholar’s program in 2003, under which a faculty has committed more than $20 million to finance member is appointed each year as a fellow and works more than 225,000 square feet of laboratory and related space (Connecticut Innovations, 2005).
The State of Connecticut has contributed to the success of Yale’s technology transfer efforts by its The second entity is the Office of Bioscience. Under support of the local biotechnology industry. Two en- the second cluster bill in 2001, the State of Connect- tities represent the State of Connecticut in the effort to icut allocated $100,000 to establish the Office of support economic development. The first is Connect- Bioscience under the Department of Economic and icut Innovation (CI), created by the legislature in Community Development. It was built to support 1989. Connecticut Innovation was charged with start-up and existing companies in the region, to pro- investing in local companies to enhance economic vide all the necessary information on conducting busi- development. The mission of the organization is ness in Connecticut, to bring new and existing out- ‘‘making equity investments in emerging Connecticut of-state companies to the region, and to represent technology companies; providing essential, non-finan- the life-science cluster of Connecticut in national and cial support to entrepreneurs; and conducting initia- tives that address specific needs of Connecticut’s Other Connecticut incentives for the biotechnology technology sector’’ (State of Connecticut, 2005). CI was originally funded by the state, but since 1995 ithas financed its equity investments solely through its  1996 Biotechnology Tax Incentive Package: This own investment returns and not taxpayer dollars. CI includes exemptions from sales, use and property has several ways of investing. Although generally it is taxes, and a 15-year carry-forward R&D tax credit.
an active investor, participating in creating a compa-  1999 Tax Credit Exchange: Eligible companies ny, writing the business plan and helping to select the that cannot use their research and development management team, CI sometimes joins in the bridge tax credits can exchange them with the state for round, or series A, of the financing process. Carolyn Table 1. The Bioscience Cluster by R&D Expenses in Connecticut  Sales Tax Relief: Exemptions of 50% and 100% of noninvolvement in the community in general and are available on certain biotechnology industry industry in particular created a situation in which it materials, such as tools, fuels, equipment, and failed to reap the credit for several important discov- eries, such as the transgenic mouse. Following thearrival of a new president in 1993 and in responseto concerns regarding to student and faculty recruit-ment, Yale made a conscious decision to invest in technology transfer and in its region’s economy.
The 1990s were a period of rapid growth in the Mas- In a time when other universities were operating sachusetts biotechnology industry, and this growth within clusters, Yale, even with a biomedical specialty, has carried into the new century. By 2002, there were did not have a biotechnology cluster. Thus, the uni- 275 biotechnology firms employing more than 26,000 versity wanted to cultivate a biotechnology industry people, and the dominant type of biotechnology ac- to assist with the retention of star scientists and its tivity in Massachusetts is related to medical science.
attractiveness to bright students. An interview with a MIT as a world-class educational institution has been Yale administrator revealed the following: very successful in fostering entrepreneurial approach-es to technology transfer. According to the Technol- What was happening was the university was starting ogy Licensing Office (TLO) office records, more than to become concerned that it would detract from our 50 biotech IP spin-off companies have been spun out ability to compete, to attract the best and brightest to the marketplace since 1980 (Table 2), with a further students, the best and brightest faculty, et cetera, if we 50 start-ups estimated to be founded by academic in- didn’t do something about it . . . First and foremost itwas all about enhancing our reputation as a univer- ventors of the university. Given that more than 90% sity, and two things come from that. One is our ability of MIT spin-offs are localized geographically and to attract and retain the best and the brightest faculty remained in the Massachusetts area, many of these and students, and the second is to diversify the re- MIT-related start-up companies play a central role in gional economy. Those were probably the principal the formation and development of the Kendall Square reasons, and we weren’t against making money, but we weren’t making a lot at the time. It really wasn’tthe principal motivator; it really was about ourreputation.
Yale and University-Based TechnologyInitiatives In addition, the city of New Haven was not a safe place for Yale’s students. This was apparent with the Yale University is known for excellence in many shooting and death of a Yale undergraduate in 1990 fields, including the life sciences. However, its culture (Sedgwick, 1994). Yale had to fight against crime to S.M. BREZNITZ, R.P. O’SHEA, AND T.J. ALLEN ensure the safety of its students by working with the of the compound that became the highly successful city of New Haven to revitalize the downtown area drug Zerit. Initially this license produced little or no and its neighborhoods. (To learn more about the four income to Yale, but by 1998 it was generating royalty areas in which Yale decided to make a change, see the income of $30 to $40 million annually. There were excerpt from Levin’s speech given earlier in the article.) important discoveries during that period, but the The catalyst of the change in Yale’s attitude toward OCR had a somewhat passive view toward commer- applied research was the arrival of Levin as the 22nd cialization, and few discoveries were patented.
president of Yale in 1993. In his first speech, Levin In 1995, President Levin and Yale’s provost at emphasized the importance of Yale’s contribution to the time, Allison Richard, approached Gregory Gar- the local economy (Richard C. Levin Yale Office of diner, a former Pfizer executive, to take charge of the OCR with new roles and responsibilities. Gardiner, aformer member of the Yale chemistry faculty, remem- Our national capability in basic research was built by bered the earlier lack of enthusiasm for research with the far-sighted policy of public support for university- practical applications and was eager to help bring based science articulated during the Truman Admin- about change. Gardiner joined the OCR as director in istration and pursued consistently, though with vary- 1996 and restructured the OCR into an office with ing intensity, ever since. Today, the scientific capability of American universities is the envy ofthe world. We neglect its support at our peril. As The duties of the OCR include oversight for patenting we seek to educate leaders and citizens for the world, and licensing activities, university inventions, and as our discoveries spread enlightenment and material contractual relationships between faculty and indus- benefits far beyond our walls, we must remember that try. OCR staff work with Yale researchers to identify we have important responsibilities here at home. We inventions that may ultimately become commercial contribute much to the cultural life of New Haven, to products and services useful to the public. OCR staff the health of its citizens and to the education of its engages in industrial partnerships to license Yale in- children. But we must do more. Pragmatism alone ventions. An important goal for the Yale OCR is to compels this conclusion. If we are to continue to re- identify new ideas, cultivate venture funding for cruit students and faculty of the highest quality, New them, and facilitate their development into compa- Haven must remain an attractive place in which to nies that become part of the New Haven economy.
There were many obstacles facing Gardiner and his team. One of the biggest challenges was to communi- Levin found the university at a time of concern for cate the new priorities to the Yale faculty. In an in- recruitment of faculty and students and facing the need to create a secure environment for students. Thisallowed him to implement a vast social, cultural, and I was asked many times by junior faculty, ‘‘If I get economic development change at Yale. Levin wanted involved with new ventures through the OCR, will I Yale to become a contributing institution with a still get tenure?’’ I told the committee [Educational broad range of activities, which will include its role Policy Committee of the Yale Corporation (the Yale as an enhancer of economic development.
trustees)] that we have to get Yale faculty to under-stand it is O.K. At MIT, history says that this is OKbut at Yale we need a change of culture.
The Proactive Role of Yale’s Technology Transfer To achieve this goal the OCR had discussions with departmental chairs and faculty to explain the insti-tutional change and Yale’s commitment to economic Yale’s technology transfer office, the Office of Coop- development. They approached faculty who worked erative Research, was established in 1982. At the time, on applied research and had made important discov- the office was mainly dealing with licensing and track- eries in the past. One of these faculty members recalls: ing patents. There was no real attempt to create orpromote technology transfer from the academic to the The OCR people came to professors who had records industrial arenas, although a notable success during in licensing or industry interaction and asked for this period was the licensing to Bristol-Myers Squibb ideas to patent and establish companies. They came to my lab; they knew I worked in Field Research A hopes that in the future its involvement will not be as and Field Research B. One of the compounds went to important. In August 1999, Gardiner retired, and [name of company]. They also recruited the manage- Jonathan Soderstrom was appointed his successor as ment for the company. With the change, Yale has director of the OCR. As a result of the efforts by Yale become more entrepreneurial but we are still respon- in general and the OCR in particular, 39 biotechnol- ogy spin-offs were created, 24 have been established inthe New Haven Metropolitan Area, and many more An examination of the disclosure process found that there was a need to change the process and tomake sure that the efforts were placed with the inven-tions that were most likely to succeed. This resulted in a major shift in OCR policies. There was an attemptto locate new inventions early, to examine them During 1996–1997, the renewed OCR established di- quickly, and to invest time and effort only in the rect contacts with venture capital firms. The goal was strongest candidates. In addition, the upgrading of not only to persuade venture capital firms of the rel- OCR practices led to the identification and recovery evance of university technology but also to convince of more than $220,000 of unpaid royalties from sev- them to create ventures in New Haven. The hard work eral licenses (Office of Cooperative Research, 1998).
of seeking appropriate investors eventually paid off, Recognizing that 80% of patents from Yale were in and in 1998, after two years of effort, the first round the biomedical field, the OCR also opened another of financing was concluded with $20 million for five office in the School of Medicine with four staff mem- companies. A Yale administrator said in an interview: bers (Office of Cooperative Research, 1999).
The OCR is involved with the university’s IPR pol- We have all kinds of venture capital. One of the dirty icies, and today all intellectual property from the in- little secrets is that although Boston thinks of itself as ventions of faculty or students belong to Yale. The a major financial capital, we’ve got one that’s even OCR will patent the inventions. Yale does not have bigger. It’s called Stanford Greenwich. When there pipeline agreements on research outcomes. Compa- was no state income tax, all the bankers used to live inStanford Greenwich, not in New York City. So they nies can have an option or first right to license the all are still there, and that’s where they have their fi- technology from a sponsored research project, but nothing is prenegotiated. Faculty can sit on compa-nies’ scientific advisory boards, but they cannot take a The OCR is involved with firm creation on an full-time position. Faculty can only take a full-time unprecedented level, including the development of position while they are on leave of absence from Yale.
product scenarios, financial projections, and business A Yale administrator said in an interview: strategies with the scientists. The OCR’s activity is They [faculty] can be assigned to advisory boards, considered extreme on university–industry involve- they can be consultants, they can do all those things, ment scale. Even MIT, which is considered the top but subject to our rules on conflict of interest, etc, theonly way they can serve in a management or operativeposition is if they’re not full time, so they’d have to be on a leave of absence, or something like that . . . We believe that one of our principal reasons for existence is the teaching of undergraduates, and we expect all faculty members to participate in the teaching of un- dergraduates and that is a firm requirement.
Today, the OCR is involved in developing product mber of spinouts
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scenarios, financial projections, and business strate- gies with the scientists. In many cases, the office is actively involved in building the company, looking for the right management and investors that will succeed in taking Yale’s technology to the market. The OCR 1976 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 sees itself as a catalyst of economic development but Figure 2. Yale Biotechnology Start-Ups by Location S.M. BREZNITZ, R.P. O’SHEA, AND T.J. ALLEN Figure 3. Roberts and Malone’s (1996) Model of Support versus Selectivity university in university–industry relationships, is not MIT and University-Based Technology Initiatives as involved in the creation of companies.
An equally important problem was the lack of Since its foundation as a public land grant institution, laboratory space for new business ventures. To assist MIT has held a deep commitment toward fostering in the development, Levin used Yale’s ability to re- a culture of entrepreneurship on campus whereby cruit top talent and convinced Bruce Alexander to it was envisaged students would not only think join Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs.
creatively but also would put their innovations into Yale’s ability to recruit top talent is demonstrated in action. This stems from the concept of MIT’s founder, the recruitment of both Gardiner and Alexander; William Barton Rogers, for a new kind of science- this also confirms that Yale had a choice of who to based technological university. He conceived a recruit and when to recruit them. As explained by a university with links to industry so that the research university’s ‘‘linear model’’ could be combined withthe land grant university’s ‘‘reverse linear model’’predicated upon deriving research goals from so- And it became clear that there’s no better personto kick out the economic development kind of mis- cietal needs. Rogers stressed the pragmatic and sion that Yale would like to have than a guy like practicable. According to the director of the MIT Bruce, so Rick [Levin] convinced Bruce to take it on full time. It’s one of those things where you sit aroundgoing, ‘‘it’s nice that everyone wants to do this,’’ but MIT was founded in 1861 by an act of the Massa- how many people are going to be able to tap a guy chusetts State Legislature that charged the fledgling like Bruce Alexander to be their economic develop- ment guru? The guy who redeveloped the Harbor application of science in connection with arts, agri- place in Baltimore, the guy who did South Street Seaport in Manhattan. It makes us all look smart, but Institute’s motto, mens et manus—literally, ‘‘mind it’s what a university like Yale can do.
transforming visionary ideas into concrete realiza- The OCR, with the Office of New Haven and State Affairs at Yale led by Alexander, set out to buildlaboratory space close to Yale’s scientists. Accord-ingly, The MIT culture rewards the ‘‘academic entre- Winstanley Associates and Lyme Properties, LLC, preneur.’’ As a result, there has been an open both of which had experience in building labs. Win- environment in which doing research with a com- stanley bought the vacant headquarters of the tele- pany or a new venture is considered positive, phone company on George Street, and Lyme took provided it enhances the education of students and over the development and management of Science provides or contributes to opportunities to conduct Park on north campus (where the university and the important, nationally visible research. Thus, tech- city had been trying to build a science park for years nology transfer at MIT is driven by its faculty and Probably the difference between us and Yale . . . is how active they are in forming the company. We cat-alyze the company, introduce people together and if What sets MIT apart from other intellectual centers is things come together we grant them a license . . . But not that it contains extremely smart people with big we don’t actually get involved in business plan writ- ideas but rather that there are many smart people in ing, or recruitment of management team, select the one part of the world that is tailor-made to take their board . . . Our process very much comes from the ideas and turn them into something real—and often profitable. According Charles Vest, a former presi- Thus, the MIT TLO does not create or directly manage the creation of companies. Instead it acts as a‘‘virtual incubator’’ and assists the inventors in the Our faculty’s commitment to deep, fundamental re- spin-out or licensing process. However, unlike Yale, search and scholarship is matched by a desire to which is trying to create a cluster of companies, MIT transfer new knowledge and technologies into theworld in important and beneficial ways.
already operates in one and does not need to getinvolved in the actual creation and development This central role of an entrepreneurial culture and of spin-offs. According to Nelsen in an interview tradition in harnessing academic entrepreneurship at MIT is also emphasized by Lita Nelsen, TLO director,in an interview in 2005: I attribute the difference [. . .MIT’s commercializationstrategies to Yale. . .] to the fact that there wasn’tmuch infrastructure in the New Haven region, where- There is very much a word of mouth culture among the as in the Cambridge this infrastructure has built up faculty almost to a point if you haven’t done one [a overtime. So when people ask whether MIT have an spinout] yet you start to wonder what is wrong with incubator? Yes, it is the city of Cambridge, it is a ge- you. Also if you are young and impressionable, as are ography experienced in high-tech entrepreneurship.
students and you come and spend four years in this The greater Boston area has a long tradition of place you’re going to meet at least twenty people who starting up technologically ventures from their uni- have started [a company] so you come out thinking ev- versities and also spinning out of corporations. It has eryone has done it and that I can do it to. So simply an trained lawyers, experienced accountants and real es- exposure to entrepreneurship raises your expectation.
tate agents. We also have indigenous VC firms andmanagement ‘know how’ who demonstrated capabil-ity to build and launch start-ups from university labs.
TLO Office and Entrepreneurial Development This has also generated a feedback loop within the regions, whereby clusters feedback themselves and acycle ‘‘success breeds success’’ culture has emerged.
A number of organizational structures and practicesfacilitate commercialization of research at MIT.
Although TLO is closely attuned to the economic These include the TLO, the Sloan School Entrepre- development mission of MIT and the entrepreneurial neurship Center, and the Deshpande Center for Tech- culture of the institution, it is important to mention nological Innovation entrepreneurship development the MIT does not engage in business plan support, does not take board seats at the company, or providelab lab facilities to academic entrepreneurs to assist Technology Licensing Office (TLO). MIT has one launching their business. In keeping with the univer- of the more active and successful technology transfer sity’s supportive approach to faculty entrepreneur- programs in the United States. The TLO office plays a ship, policies supportive of commercialization have proactive role in technology transfer activities. Rather evolved. A number of basic principles guide MIT’s than waiting for a technology pull, reacting to re- conflict of interest policies for technology transfer, quests for licenses from interested companies, the and these basic principles also apply to start-up TLO encourages faculty to promptly disclose inven- activities. MIT is acknowledged to have one of the tions and then quickly and carefully evaluates the strictest policies on managing these and other conflicts market value of inventions and obtains protection of of interest arising from its licenses and collaborations intellectual property. However, according to Nelsen: S.M. BREZNITZ, R.P. O’SHEA, AND T.J. ALLEN commercialization and widespread acceptance oftheir innovations.
These clear policies, well thought out and consistentlyapplied, are designed to facilitate start-ups. The sim-plicity, the strictness and no-exceptions rules for keep- ing MIT and its start-ups separate actually help keepthings moving, because negotiations do not get bogged This study compared two approaches to technology down while committees ponder over exceptions and transfer from universities to industry: top-down and bottom-up initiatives. The study compared these ap-proaches at Yale and MIT, two world-class leading Entrepreneurship development programs. MIT has research universities. The results show that different supplemented a rigorous engineering curriculum with approaches to technology transfer and commercial- formal and experiential education in entrepreneur- ization at universities can result in similar positive ship, drawing on the local alumni base and faculty role models. This program, and perhaps more impor- Although Yale is one of the strongest universities in tantly the underlying culture of the institution, has a life sciences in the United States, with plenty of re- strong influence on students and graduates. Support- sources, prior to 1993 it had spun out only three bio- ing entrepreneurial activity has long been a very im- technology companies and had very few patents and portant part of the culture of MIT, but its role and licenses. Its passive attitude toward applied research importance have accelerated dramatically. This aspect and technology transfer created an obstacle for the of MIT’s culture is fostered in a number of ways.
creation of clusters. Thus, in 1993, following the ar- The MIT Deshpande Center for Technological rival of Levin as Yale’s 22nd president, Yale decided Innovation awards $50,000 Ignition Grants and to invest in four areas, one of which was economic $250,000 Innovation Grants to MIT faculty first to development through technology transfer. Yale chose catalyze demonstration of new business ideas based to approach the change through top-down initiatives on their research and then to help move those new to create a new entrepreneurial environment at the ideas to market by funding later stage research and university. Thus, Yale chose to rebuild its technology matching each project with a Catalyst mentor from transfer office (TTO) to push for spin-off creation and the industrial or investment community. It also offers its location in the region. Furthermore, the university a Venture Mentoring Service whereby MIT alumni contributed to the creation of new science parks in the offer to mentor MIT entrepreneurs. In certain cases, region and the revitalization of the downtown area retired venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and chief and the surrounding neighborhoods. Yale’s economic executive officer mentors are given offices on campus development impact on the local region can be seen in to be in close proximity to the MIT community.
the growth of the number of biotechnology companies The Center for Entrepreneurship, located at the in the region from 6 to 49 with a total number of Sloan School of Management, aims to engage students 35,857 employees in the industry. The local pharma- and faculty throughout the institute and to provide ceutical industry has changed its relationships with research and educational programs in electronic com- the local academic base. Today local pharmaceutical merce and in new product and venture formation.
companies have research programs with Yale and According to the director of the MIT Entrepreneur- local biotechnology companies. The total R&D of ship Center, MIT is not satisfied with the production of the pharmaceutical industry in Connecticut represents knowledge, patents, and degrees but wants these to be 12% of the total R&D that the industry does applied to commercial use. Thus, the university tries to nationwide. Yale University spun out 39 biotechnol- train its own staff and students to become competent ogy companies, which engage in research projects enough to make high-tech ventures successful: with the university and provide internships for its According to the director of the MIT Entrepre- On the other hand, MIT has a long and distin- guished track record of involvement and commitment MIT scientists, engineers, and managers believe that to promoting economic development. Undoubtedly, it is not enough merely to invent a new product, con- the university’s land grant heritage, with its emphasis cept or technology. The measure of success is global on the importance of service and application of research, played an important role in these activities.
istration had to convince faculty that the university MIT also nurtured a long-standing mission of service supports their applied research and industry related to its state and national interests while at the same activity and to allow faculty to change their attitude time creating a bottom-up entrepreneurial culture and some novel approaches to technology transfer.
In summary, there are many ways universities MIT is populated with a large number of star scien- can have a positive contribution to economic devel- tists, in science, engineering, and biomedical disci- opment. However, the ways universities choose to make their contribution must compliment the existing disseminating, and preserving knowledge and to conditions for technology transfer and commercial- working with others to bring this knowledge to ization at both the university and the region in which bear on the world’s great challenges. Thus, to sup- port these resources, MIT’s story is largely about abottom-up approach using a low support–low selec- tivity model toward technology transfer policy. TheMIT story is also about a formal, deliberate ap- Technology transfer and the commercialization of proach to commercialization, which is supported by university research is a fundamental part of U.S.
a university mission that is advocated by university emerging industrial development strategy and in leaders that view MIT’s cooperation with industry terms of building high value-added jobs. However, favorably. However, it is also a story of history, for many countries investments in funding of uni- leadership by key individuals, and the development versity research projects and institutes have occurred of a robust entrepreneurial culture within the uni- in a vacuum in that there is an incomplete under- versity and its surrounding environment.
standing of how such investments will lead to theanticipated industrial development benefits. By building on Roberts and Malone’s (1996) model ofsupport versus selectivity, the present article shows From this study, it can be seen that the success of that many models for university–industry and tech- science and technology policy is related to the insti- nology transfer can result in similar positive eco- tutional arrangements that enable knowledge transfer nomic impacts. The present study therefore argues and innovation in a process-oriented mode. Whereas that the development of strategies to aid spin-off Yale chose high support–high selectivity initiatives companies should be tailored to the specific needs of and micromanagement of technology transfer, MIT the spin-off and the institution from which they chose to stay with in its entrepreneurial culture and emerge. The typology provides dimensions along implement up until recently a low support–low selec- which policymakers and practitioners can shape their tivity models in terms of the creation and develop- thinking about biotechnology start-ups. This arti- ment of start-ups. Both contributed to the creation of cle’s strength is in the choices it offers university a vibrant biotechnology cluster. Second, the choice of heads and policymakers, revealing that different commercialization initiatives at universities needs to approaches to technology transfer and commercial- be made after careful evaluation of the region in ization can lead to similar positive impacts in local which the university operates and the current condi- economic development. As a consequence, this arti- tions for economic development. Yale chose its cle provides the first step toward the construction of top-down technology transfer policy to rebuild a a different theoretical conceptualization of the uni- new entrepreneurial spirit at the university. MIT, versity as an actor in regional development.
which was founded with industry collaboration inmind, chose to build on the existing institutionaland regional environment in technology transfer and Limitations and Future Research Directions to implement its policy through largely bottom-upinitiatives. Third, for technology transfer policy to This research is limited to the results from the two succeed, it is not enough for a university to initiate case studies of two leading research universities in the top-down changes—a real cultural change within the United States. Although case studies provide rich in- university has to occur. It was not enough for Yale to sights into a specific situation, it is difficult to gener- change its technology transfer office. Central admin- alize about the studies as a whole. Thus, further S.M. BREZNITZ, R.P. O’SHEA, AND T.J. ALLEN analysis needs to be conducted using other universities Lawson, Clive and Lorenz, Edward (1999). Collective Learning, Tacit and both the bottom-up and top-down initiatives to Knowledge and Regional Innovative Capacity. Regional Studies33(4):305–317.
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