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Any technical development effort must result in higher profit to sustain an R&D effort and very few would argue against effective corporate or academic R&D. The problem, as I see it, is a failure of many universities to work together with industry to determine where the real needs for technical innovation exist in our economy. In too many cases, professors and their graduate students exist in an ivory tower with no link to the real industrial concerns and needs. This problem is compounded when these graduates go into the private sector trained in highly specialized technical areas with little knowledge of how things work in the private sector. This has been a factor in reduced corporate R&D spending.
Universities must focus on establishing much stronger links to industry if their R&D efforts are to be effective. I would hope that the University of Pittsburgh is doing this. With tighter public sector budgets, universities can no longer solely depend on government support. Some major universities are very slowly recognizing this and are forming alliances with private sector partners to fund R&D efforts. Carnegie Mellon University is certainly doing this and is ahead of the curve with a comprehensive look at the total energy needs for the future, what makes economic sense and what does not. I have been trying to get universities to move in this direction for quite some time.
Remember, no one gets off a winning race horse. Demonstrate that you know how to develop profitable developments and you will have no problem finding funding.
Upper St. Clair
First Published January 27, 2013 12:00 am