Letter: Research harmony

April 12, 2001

David Packham drew attention to the conflicts that can arise when university research engages with business ("Public interest comes before industry profits", Opinion, THES , March 30).

With the HEROBaC (Reach Out) initiative and others adding new commercial dimensions, universities are much better equipped to deal with business.

The extremes are defined by curiosity-led research and contract research. For example, here at Bath it is fascinating to see research in photonics, which started as curiosity-led, being taken forward with the help of business.

Lack of commercial awareness by some academics in the past has indeed caused them to enter into contracts that have turned out to be restrictive. But provided research is protected and proper regard is paid to what should or should not be disclosed, academics have every incentive to publish - to gain peer group recognition and to promote wider commercial awareness.

Universities need to benefit more from the commercial potential of their research. If the role and relevance of curiosity-led research is clearly explained to business, then what makes for a healthy, creative institution will be better understood.

Philip Poulsom
Business Services Centre
University of Bath

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