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Knowledge commons or economic engine – what’s a university for?
  1. Bryn Williams-Jones
  1. Correspondence to:
 B Williams-Jones
 Cardiff Institute of Society, Health and Ethics, School of Social Sciences, University of Cardiff, Cardiff, CF10 3AT;

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With closer interactions between academic and commercial entities the role of the university is expanding to also include knowledge transfer

In the biomedical and health sciences (as well as other applied sciences), close interactions between academic and commercial entities are now common place. Funds from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have helped finance major bioscience projects and research centres, graduate students are receiving training in commercial laboratories, and university scientists are translating their ‘intellectual property’ by patenting their research and launching start-up companies. And this is happening with the blessing of universities, who see the commercialisation of research – and the royalties brought in from ‘technology transfer’ – as part of their new mission.

The result is that no longer are universities simply places of higher learning, where academics are dedicated to teaching and research, traditionally the ‘first’ and ‘second’ missions of universities; universities now have a ‘third’ mission, to engage in knowledge transfer. Governments and research-intensive industries (such as pharma, biotech, IT), are keen to translate university research into marketable products. Facilitated by policies and laws to protect intellectual property rights and aid commercialisation, universities are transforming into ‘entrepreneurial’ institutions.1 University administrators seek to generate new funding streams, while governments see universities as drivers of technology development and economic growth. In such a climate, it should not be surprising that researchers in many disciplines are facing pressure to collaborate …

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