In a sure to be controversial new study, the Milken Institute has scored North American universities on their technology transfer and commercialization prowess. This is a big and complex issue, but one that deserves the attention. Universities, especially public ones, have a societal obligation to get stuff out where citizens can benefit, so tech transfer and commercialization play a vital role — even if universities are horribly conflicted on the issue, with no idea whether to try to make money on commercialization, drive volume (and make it back from wealthy alumni), or just to listen to rearguard sorts who think commercialization is, you know, evil.
Turning to the study itself, the researchers have produced enough top ten tables on enough dimensions that every university will almost certainly find some dimension along which they score highly. The reality of course is that most schools lose money at tech transfer and commercialize virtually nothing. So saying you are among the top schools isn’t necessarily saying much, as most schools do very little at all.
Some other beefs:
- The researchers didn’t properly normalize and stratify income and startups against research expenditures, so you have some bizarre results with small schools leading the pack in some categories (because of miniscule spending turned into a couple of startups).
- The researchers flip-flop between treating the University of California as a system and as its constituent schools. It should be the latter, of course, as a system-wide ranking is meaningless.
Nevertheless, the key table is the following one. Maybe use it to decide how to direct your donations. Click on it for a larger version: