Academics & Entrepreneurship

One of the more Hobbesian choices faced by academic researchers with commercializable technologies is what they should do with them. While most money-minded people would say “Go out and make money from your invention”, the reality is that most (but not all) academic researchers are in research institutions for a reason: They like to do research, not start companies. Leaving, creating a company, and then selling stuff doesn’t strike them as a good time — and that’s fine.
At the same time, hoary Stanford anecdotes aside, most universities still sniff somewhat at faculty-members-turned-entrepreneurs. What’s going to happen to your NIH/NSF grant? Who’s going to manage your lab? How will you publish papers in the private sector?
All valid questions, so it is interesting to see a paper in the new issue of journal Research Policy that presents a startling factoid: Researchers are more productive at producing papers when they shift from academia to industry, and then they become more productive again if/when they come back into the academic fold.


  1. Brent Buckner says:

    Thanks for the reference. Industry is a tremendous source of interesting and significant questions, and can be a great source of resources.
    The productivity boost upon returning to academia is intuitive (change is as good as a holiday, now more focused on research, but maintaining the benefits of improved context and network).
    The productivity boost upon going into industry surprises me – I’d be interested in the definitions of the populations (e.g. whether or not those who didn’t subsequently publish were discarded from consideration).
    Perhaps there’s some lesson about academia’s potential for coddling.

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