Scientists who pay serious attention to forging links with industry are not necessarily more successful at doing so than those who see their research role as exclusively academic, according to a study to be published next month.
The finding is based on interviews with 65 research leaders at four institutes backed by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
Researcher Sean Butler says that while the scientists had varying degrees of collaboration with industry, some who enthused about the importance of interacting with industry, and engaged in such contacts, had "little or no success" in attracting commercial backing.
Mr Butler says: "There is no correlation between attitude and success in commercialisation." Some scientists who thought their sole task was high-quality research bring in significant industrial funding without making it a priority. He suggests that this might reflect industry's long-term interest in leading-edge research. "In most cases it is industry that makes contact with researchers in key areas."
Mr Butler, a commercial lawyer, has carried out the study as part of a PhD for Imperial College. He says that the findings show that "a much broader definition of technology transfer is needed than one that focusses on the creation of products, processes and patents.
"Scientists are making contributions to industry through many different channels and often it is research work that can enhance a firm's product and process development programme that generates interest in industry". The study found no evidence that lack of time and resources had any serious effect on scientists' dealings with industry.