Principals warn against spin-off frenzy

August 9, 2002

Universities Scotland is warning against "distorting" teaching and research in a bid to boost commercialisation.

The higher education principals' submission to the Scottish Executive's review of higher education questions the emphasis on the number of academic spin-offs, saying these vary greatly in size and impact and are not always the best options.

"Licensing deals, sale of intellectual property or consultancy are also important vehicles for commercialisation," it says.

And it attacks the "myth" that commercialisation is a big money-spinner for institutions. "In fact, the process is expensive and can sometimes cost an institution money, particularly when working with (small and medium-sized enterprises). Even MIT, the world leader in commercialisation, only generates about 1 per cent of its total income from (this)."

But the principals firmly support the creation of a knowledge economy and want industry to pay more attention to continuing professional development.

If universities could rely on a "longer-term funding horizon", it would remove the pressure on them to make short-term gains from their intellectual property at the expense of a potentially more effective long-term approach, the principals say.

* The Scottish Parent Teacher Council has accused the Scottish Executive of "seriously insulting" academics in its review by suggesting that they willingly accept low pay. They "chose careers to pursue interesting questions, knowingly forgoing high salaries," the review claims.

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