The UK, as one of the world’s leading innovation centers, continues to be “good at generating great ideas in our universities but less good at turning them into products and businesses of the future.” This insight by David Willetts in his 2012 Policy Exchange speech highlights a global issue – how to translate research excellence into economic value.
Businesses with the potential to develop ideas need to be able to tap into relevant past research. Too much resource is wasted in the repetition of early stage research experiments and opportunities to stimulate innovation in response to research findings are often missed.
Industrial research and development (R&D) participants, who have a keen focus on this issue, believe that at least 10% of their research data is lost and must be reworked and at least 13% of people’s time is spent looking for data.
How much public money is spent on research? Here are some facts:
Even if the levels of inefficiency are the same as industry the amount of wasted time and effort represents an astonishing sinkhole for public money at a time of intense financial constraint.
For academia to capture and use knowledge assets there should be one place to go to share research, something akin to a national ‘Book of Research’. It would provide access, on a strictly controlled and secure basis, to those who make use of research data and are able and motivated to secure the IP generated by it. This could also accommodate the public need for open access to research information once IP is protected.
The good news is that open access to all academic data is on the radar. Governments are starting to recognize their pivotal role in creating the conditions and e-infrastructure to maximize the full economic value from research. The US Government recently pledged to increase access to federally-funded research findings and in the UK, the Research Councils UK (RCUK), is heading up free and open access to outputs from publicly-funded research which it believes offer significant social and economic benefits.
However, it is not good enough just to publish headline information to the public. The underlying research data should also be secured and made available to the academic community so that innovation is properly nurtured.
Any country seeking to drive an innovation agenda that fosters collaboration must encourage cohesive, effective data management that gets rid of silos across communities. This will help those countries that already excel in research to benefit commercially from those successes.