Archive for 'University R&D'

University Research Technology Transfer Intangible Assets!

May 4th, 2014. Published under University R&D, University Technology Transfer. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly     May 4, 2014   ‘A long form blog where attention span really matters’!

Having been in academia for 20+ years, I found that most, if not all, university research (whether basic or applied) and the subsequent innovations – inventions produced potentially valuable, and certainly equally important intangible assets.

In early stage research, intangible assets often compliment and/or serve as supporting foundations to the invention – innovation and ultimately the intellectual property (IP), should that be the path and/or strategy the tech transfer office deems appropriate and worthy of the necessary resources.  IP, after all, is what most technology transfer managers, faculty researchers, inventors, research administrators aspire often times to the chagrin of intangible asset strategists and risk specialists.

In far too many instances however, an inventions – innovations underlying and often facilitating intangible assets, particularly intellectual, structural, and relationship capital are overlooked, dismissed, or utterly overshadowed by the time honored and emotion laden predilection associated with acquiring conventional IP, typically the issuance of a patent.

Unfortunately, but quite realistically, today’s road to successful technology transfer is increasingly protracted, and strewn with costly and embedded with asymmetric risks of the type which can readily undermine asset value along with its competitive, attractive, and potentially lucrative components.  Collectively, this suggests the prospects for developing the next high royalty generating Gatorades’, as was the case at the University of Florida are few and far between. Since U of F achieved this research feat in 1965, the landscape of the R&D environment as a whole, has changed significantly in terms of now being global aggressive, competitive, predatorial, and certainly winner-take-all.

But, that shouldn’t and doesn’t keep faculty researchers from continually trying!

After all, it’s an economic fact though, that 80+% of most university-based invention’s value and foundations for generating revenue, especially faculty researcher generated (university-based) inventions, evolve directly from intangible assets.  This economic fact now makes it all the more prudent to factor into technology transfer processes, intangible assets!

Why?, because in most instances, intangible assets underlie, are embedded in, and are valuable by-products of scientific innovations.  To consider intangible assets as after-thoughts or subordinate to intellectual properties relative to technology transfer invention assessments leaves potentially lucrative (licensing) opportunities and value on the proverbial strategic planning and negotiating tables!

Similarly, narrowly conceiving university research, inventions, and technology transfer processes through conventional IP (patent – licensing) only lens often diminishes our inclination to genuinely explore options for exploiting the potential value and competitive advantages generated fromintangibles already embedded in most every invention – innovation.

When intangible assets are overlooked or not properly factored into the technology transfer processes, their supportive and contributory role – value, and even possibly their defensive role for enhancing and sustaining the invention (research) and aspired IP will likely be irrevocably lost.  Increasingly, this bodes well for global economic and competitive advantage adversaries who have the where with all to identify, acquired, and exploit (monetize) those assets for their benefit and profit at the rightful owners’ expense.

There are multiple other benefits that can accrue to university technology transfer teams and faculty inventors’ when they acquire an operational familiarity with intangibles which includes identifying, unraveling, and leveraging the intangibles associated with an invention versus lumping them or dismissing them into the ‘catch all’ goodwill bucket.  In other words, intangibles can and should be integrated into an inventor’s technology transfer strategic plan.

So, with 80+% of an institution’s value and sources of revenue residing in intangible assets, every university inventor and technology transfer office should engage the intangibles now!

While visiting my blog, you are encouraged to browse other categories which you may find relevant. Too, I welcome your comments and inquiries at  314-440-3593 or m.moberly@kpstrat.com

Academic Freedom Is An Intangible Asset!

April 24th, 2014. Published under University R&D. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly   April 24, 2014   ‘A long form blog where attention span really matters’.

Academic freedom as it applies to university-based scientific research is one of our most fundamental intangible assets! Most country’s higher education policy has been largely supportive of the time honored practice/tradition of academic freedom and open communication with respect to university-based research. Academic freedom entails, among other things, unfettered and at will exchange of research, information, options to publish findings.

Insofar as the U.S. is concerned, World War II prompted some government leaders to contemplate, in national security contexts, the value and competitive advantages of university-based scientific research, if adversaries were able to acquire and apply it against the U.S. A significant number of the government leaders engaged in this debate advocated the imposition of controls which would place restrictions on conventional academic freedoms with respect to research.

Of course, there were opponents. One quite strong opponent to government imposition of controls on scientific communication in universities was Vannevar Bush, who stated in 1945 that:

  • “there is no reason to believe that scientists from other countries will not, in time, re-discover everything we now know…”.
  • “a sounder foundation for our national security rests in a broad dissemination of scientific knowledge upon which further advances can be more readily made than in a policy of restriction which would impede further advances in the hope that our potential enemies/adversaries will not catch up with us…”. (Vannevar Bush.       Science: The Endless Frontier. U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development, National Science Foundation. Washington, DC 1980 (originally published in 1945).

The subsequent Cold War era however, distorted the distinctions Bush sought to make. One result was there became few, if any, limits on the kinds of contributory scientific research which some Federal officials would interpret as being vital to national security and, therefore, warranting some type of control to limit communication, dissemination, and ultimately, availability.

During the Cold War, threats posed by the Soviet Union were the primary focus of national security and counterintelligence initiatives by the U.S. government and were concentrated on monitoring its methodologies and targets, particularly, intelligence collection activity directed at economic and technological information which was treated as an adjunct to traditional espionage, not as a separate topic. (From testimony of Louis J. Freeh, Director, FBI, before House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, Hearing on Economic Espionage, May 9, 1996)

The end of the Cold War however, spawned a new emphasis, i.e., the connections between nation’s economic stability, vitality, and national defense. And, beginning in the mid to late 1980’s, national security was seen more in terms of economic strength and vitality than in terms of pure military capability. In other words, as former FBI Directors stated before the Cleveland Economics Club, ‘the U.S.’s economic security equates with its national security’. In other words, they were becoming, from a strategic (national, international) policy perspective, indistinguishable, or, if you will, interchangeable.

But, despite numerous well argued protests emanating from the U.S. scientific – research sector, in general, some restrictions were still placed on traditional scientific communication. Relief from these information/research security controls began to emerge (lessen) as Cold War anti-communism perspectives were essentially ‘re-purposed’ to accommodate – reflect the many new international trade and foreign policy initiatives which sought more cooperation and collaboration with the Soviet Union and its (Warsaw Pact) allies during the late 1960’s. But, as relations with the Soviets and Eastern bloc countries deteriorated again in the late 1970’s, culminating with the end of detent upon the invasion Afghanistan by the Soviets, the previous restrictions on scientific communication and specific university-based research were re-emerged with new controls and restrictions being sought.

So, during the first half of the 1980’s, American scientists experienced a significant increase in (national) security controls placed on their professional communication, teaching, speech, and research. (Relyea, Harold. Silencing Science: National Security Controls and Scientific Communication. Ablex. Norwood, NJ 1994. Preface)

This same debate regarding scientific communication and national security emerged again in March of 1982 as Department of Defense officials initiated discussions with the National Academy’s of Sciences and Engineering and the Institute of Medicine concerning ‘the acquisition and use of American science and technology’ by economic, defense, and competitive advantage adversaries.

These particular discussions led to the creation of the ‘Panel on Scientific Communication and National Security’ often referred to as ‘the Corson Panel’ named after the former president of Cornell University who served as its chair. The Panel was comprised of individuals representing industry, government, and the scientific (academic) community and was charged with examining this complex and increasingly critical issue and its relevance to the U.S.’s national security. To be sure, the U.S. was certainly not the only nation expressing concern regarding this complex dilemma.

As would be expected, the higher education research community was deeply concerned that, in the name of national security, the stage was being set (again) for the imposition of possibly stronger and more stringent controls on the flow of scientific information and research within and between universities, controls which opponents argued would seriously affect the climate and operation of university-based research and the benefits stemming from them not only to the U.S., but other countries, as well. (Gray, Paul E. Technology Transfer At Issue: The Academic Viewpoint. IEEE Spectrum, May, 1982)

Dr. Frank Press, former president of the National Academy of Sciences summarized these critical issues in a September 30, 1982 letter regarding the work of the Panel on Scientific Communication and National Security…

“…the issue of scientific communication and national security represents a most difficult policy issue. Advances in science and technology have traditionally thrived in an atmosphere of open communication and this openness has contributed to American military and economic strength and has been a tenet of American culture and higher education”.

“…however, recent trends, including apparent increases in acquisition efforts by adversaries to the U.S., have raised serious concerns that openness may harm U.S. security by providing those adversaries with militarily relevant technologies that can be directed against us”.

“…as would be expected when major national (security) interests are being questioned, it’s inevitable that signs of distrust will emerge from all sides of the growing public discussion. The federal government, through its research and development agencies, and the university research community, where most basic research is conducted, both will lose much if the nation cannot find a policy course that reflects these legitimate concerns.”

There was consensus however among Corson Panel members upon completion of their work in late 1982, that universities and open scientific communication had been the source of very little of the problem of technology transfer to adversaries. The Corson Panel did acknowledge however, there had been a net flow of scientific information from the U.S. to other countries. This, they claimed, was consistent with the more advanced status of U.S. science. But still, the Corson Panel reported noted there was serious doubt as to whether adversaries could actually reap significant and/or direct military benefits from this information flow in the near term.

In late 1982, when the Panel’sreport was published, little was known about the steadily growing interest by business and government alike, in matters related to competitiveness and economics outside of traditional military or defense-related espionage issues. At the time, the increasingly sophisticated and specialized profession known as ‘competitor and economic intelligence’ was literally in its infancy, and there is no public evidence that members of the Panel recognized or gave credence to this phenomenon since neither was characterized, at the time, as either global in scope or a routine business practice as they certainly are today.

A contributing factor this assessment was that, at the time, the largely government sponsored intelligence empires still focused most of their acquisition and analysis attention on military, defense, and political subjects, not business, industry, economic, or competitiveness matters. (Scientific Communication and National Security. A report prepared by the Panel on Scientific Communication and National Security Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy. National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. National Academy Press, Washington, DC. 1982)

Today, however, in the ‘global economy,’ no longer is there any practical or useful distinction between national economic relations and international economic relations. Most national economies, like that of the U.S., are no longer islands where domestic preferences alone dictate outcomes. (Gregory, Sean. Economic Intelligence in the Post-Cold War Era: Issues for Reform. 1997 and William Warner, University of Kentucky)

And, while most government sponsored intelligence agencies today retain a general mission for external intelligence collection, many, if not most, have refocused their attention to include acquisition of economic intelligence versus exclusively military-defense related targets. (Broadly attributed to David Major, The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies)

Intangible Asset Strategist Corporate – University Research

March 31st, 2014. Published under IP strategy., University R&D, University Technology Transfer. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly    March 31, 2014   ‘A long form blog where attention span really matters’.

It’s all about sustaining control, use, ownership and monitoring the value, materiality, and risks to intangible assets, particularly intellectual and structural capital.  And, when 80+% of most research evolves from intangible assets, i.e., intellectual and structural capital in particular, having an intangible asset strategist and risk specialist available can make the difference between exasperating ‘minimalization’ and  exuberance!

Having served in academia for 20+ years myself, it’s certainly no secret that one distinguishing factor related to university-based (faculty) researchers (inventors) is that they generally have the opportunity to pursue – engage in research that reflects their academic interests which they have dedicated themselves. This generally involves multiple years of rigorously testing hypotheses which occasionally culminates in a patentable and/or licensable product with future commercialization potential.

Achieving this level of academic excellence, i.e., patentability is seldom a standalone activity. Instead, it entails developing and maintaining positive collaborative – working relationships between faculty researchers and TTO director and staff, both of which are essential components to achieving satisfying and optimistically lucrative (scientific) outcomes for all parties.  So, faculty researcher (inventor) relationships with their universities’ Technology Transfer Office (TTO) can often be complicated and even contentious, but need not be so!

Competing in the global R&D environment…

Those familiar with R&D processes and what’s necessary to successfully move a scientific project along the continuum to reach patentability stage and perhaps commercialization in its market space recognize that most all R&D, be it university or private sector based, are competing in an increasingly intertwined, aggressive, and often times predatorial marketplace where boundaries have become blurred between domestic and international business allegiances, prompting, in many respects, well warranted risks and cautions which produce more challenges for institutions and investors insofar as distinguishing – assessing the most promising (patentability, commercialization) strategies within a particular field.

More specifically, and to be purposefully redundant, a fundamental concept that warrants more recognition by faculty researchers and university TTO managers alike, is that the broader research and development environment has truly become globalized, which in my niche of the world translates as being increasingly competitive, aggressive, predatorial, and often culminates in winner-take-all outcomes. Necessarily, the competition for researcher intellectual and structural capital competencies is quite intense, sometimes bordering on the fanatical.

Unfamiliarity, naiveté, or acting dismissively of the environment I have characterized here will (can) contribute to – exacerbate the growing array of problems and challenges insofar as securing and retaining strong defensive – offensive grounding in intellectual property, patents particularly. If, for example, a faculty researcher/inventor has the good fortune, skill, and necessary long term funding to develop a compound or device that ultimately can be readily circumvented and/or counterfeited.  Herein lies unfortunately, an all too frequent problem in which one’s work ends up being exploited, not by its rightful owner, rather by predatorialy motivated economic and competitive advantage adversaries globally.

Needless to say, when such risks are dismissed or worse in my view, a feigning of unawareness or adopting a position which suggests it’s not their responsibility to elevate (risk) awareness within their respective (institutional) research community it’s disconcerting and demoralizing to faculty researchers – inventors.   More so when they learn their work/research product will face challenges, legal and otherwise, which an institution may opt to not engage because the challenge is difficult, time consuming and very costly to effectively enforce or ‘win’.  When such circumstances arise, as well as many others, one can be assured it will render a projects’ attractiveness to prospective licensees, investors, and/or commercialization opportunities to be less than might what otherwise be expected, in other words significantly minimized.

Strategic solution paths…

A universities’ technology transfer office is and should be the starting point for faculty researchers – inventors to disclose, or fully unravel, their invention and acquire the most current strategic counsel to ensure the most promising and worthy research, i.e., technologies are guided to their natural and hopefully lucrative and beneficial conclusions.  A not infrequent personal – professional reality is that at some point during a projects’ disclosure, unraveling, and technology transfer process is the discouraging reality that that not all discoveries warrant patentability and commercialization.

A complicating factor, one which university technology transfer managers know all too well, is that a technology transfer process can take months, and in some instances years – to fully evolve and arrive at a point of final (university) recommendation or decision.  For example, the issuance of a patent or consummation of a licensing agreement, are events which involve mergers’ of expertise, good fortune, good timing, and investor/funder interest.

But, it is not my intent to place the onus solely on TTO managers, rather, faculty researchers – inventors seeking a potential (public) break through or ‘turning point’ moment for their specific research, often times they are already acutely aware of the global competitiveness and predatorial nature associated with R&D environments in general.  In other words, a faculty researcher will always find it in their interest to consistently engage in best practices insofar as effectively managing and safeguarding their research.

A university’s technology transfer office is typically where the expertise lies to convert inventions into commercially viable products if and when feasible.  Faculty researchers and/or inventors need experienced and industry sector expertise to aid them in navigating, assessing, and offering recommendations on strategies that hopefully lead to patentability and/or commercialization which can come from intangible asset strategists and risk specialists.

Reader comments and inquires are always welcome at 314-440-3593 (St. Louis) or m.moberly@kpstrat.com

 

University-Based Research: The Necessity To Safeguard Intellectual and Structural Capital!

January 7th, 2013. Published under University R&D, University Technology Transfer. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly   January 7, 2013

University technology transfer units and faculty researchers are obliged now, more than ever, to think differently about safeguarding their intangible assets and intellectual properties…

 The rules of engagement in the world of entrepreneurism and scientific/commercial R&D have changed largely due to the persistent, predatorial, and ultra-sophisticated threats and risks emanating from legacy free independent players as well as state sponsored intelligence and data mining entities which are unfortunately far too often misunderstood, naively discounted or omitted from information, IP, and intangible asset protection, risk management, and oversight equations.

Initiatives (programs) to effectively safeguard and manage these key assets need to be holistic, i.e., from start to finish, and include practices to elevate awareness to and otherwise mitigate this ‘always on’ global dilemma.

Most universities’ technology transfer landscape is now shaped almost exclusively by the development and flow of intangible products and services, i.e., the flow of information, know how, and other forms of intangible assets.  Similarly, university and institutional value has literally shifted away from collections of physical (tangible) assets to collections of intellectual, structural, and relationship capital which have become valuable and standalone commodities for which sustaining control, use, ownership, defensibility and consistently monitoring value are essential to technology transfer, commercialization, and other monetization initiatives.

Universities, faculty researchers, and technology transfer units need to think differently about past practices and conventions!  The laws associated with intellectual property protections and enforcements are largely reactive, not proactive, and typically apply after, and if, protected information asset (IP) losses, i.e. infringement, misappropriation, and/or theft have occurred and ultimately become known to their originator, owner, and/or holder.

For example, when research commences and if/when a patent may be issued, faculty researchers, research administrators, and technology transfer units are dependent on their (a.) respective levels’ of awareness to the assets’ vulnerability to loss or impairment, i.e., through compromise, infringement, misappropriation, and counterfeiting, etc., and (b.) willingness and resources to aggressively pursue suspected wrong doers in a timely and aggressive manner.

In other words, all university-based research in my view, is obliged to reflect today’s very real, persistent, and asymmetric vulnerabilities and threats.  To achieve this, intangible asset protection and monitoring practices must be much more proactive and put in in place on the front end in order to sustain control, use, ownership, and monitor value, materiality, and risk.  After all, in conventional venture capital forums, as well as the increasingly trendy and accepted (patent) auctions where much university-based research gravitates and brought to the attention of venture capitalists, key and prudent questions posed have to do with not just the proverbial ‘what’s your IP position’, but they drill deeper to assess the status, defensibility, and vulnerability of the research (intangible asset) product.  Too be sure, it is imprudent, if not irresponsible to not have a compelling and authoritative response.

My blog posts are researched and written by me with the genuine intent they serve as a worthy and respectful venue to elevate awareness and appreciation for intangible assets throughout the global business community.  Most of my posts focus on issues related to identifying, unraveling, and sustaining control, use, ownership, and monitoring asset value, materiality, and risk.  As such, my blog posts are not intended to be quick bites of information, unsubstantiated commentary, or single paragraphed platforms to reference other media. 

Comments regarding my blog posts are encouraged and respected. Should any reader elect to utilize all or a portion of any of my posts, attribution is expected and always appreciated. While visiting my blog readers are encouraged to browse other topics (posts) which may be relevant to their circumstance or business transaction.  I always welcome your inquiry at 314-440-3593 or m.moberly@kpstrat.com.

Patents Are Intangible Assets Suitable For Framing…!

August 28th, 2012. Published under Investing in intangible assets., University R&D, University Technology Transfer. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly     August 28, 2012

The difference between a patent and intangible assets is that an issued patent can be framed, while intangible assets are non-physical and are the real enablers of most every patent.  Frequently, much to the chagrin of intangible asset strategists, intellectual property, i.e., patents particularly, are the presumptive ‘brass ring’ which a significant percentage of technology transfer managers, researchers, inventors, and legal counsel set their sights, sometimes for obvious reasons, and sometimes because quite simply, there is no intangible asset specialist -strategist in place to articulate alternatives.

I suspect, somewhat respectfully, that deference is routinely attached to patent (only) strategies based on the time honored perspective that an issued patent conveys ownership, certain rights, and is defensible under law, all of which it does.  However, the costs associated with obtaining, maintaining, and defending a patent are escalating, making that tract increasingly out-of-reach for many inventors and innovation regimes, absent a fairly deep pocket of investment resources.

In today’s increasingly aggressive, predatorial, and winner-take-all global business transaction and R&D environment, patents, in my view, are in a fairly constant state of risk. Too, I might add, there is the widely held, but never-the-less mistaken assumption that an issued patent constitutes a deterrent to, or safe harbor from would be infringers, which it certainly does not.

Yes, it still remains very true that prospective investors, venture capitalists, and to be sure, large multi-nationals who may express interest in an inventor’s research, truly believe the proverbial ‘what is your IP position’ question is both relevant and important.  At the 30,000 foot level, the answers to IP questions like that, can become deal breakers or constitute a significant duty of sorts levied against the inventor.  But, in a large percentage of circumstances, and I say this with the utmost respect, there are comparatively few researchers – inventors working at the 30,000 foot level, rather most are working at the 4,000 foot level, with the ‘gatorade invention and royalties’ (University of Florida, 1965) few and far between.

Patents are expensive to obtain, to maintain, and to defend. And, even if the entire patenting process goes smoothly for an inventor, company, or institution, the patent still remains at risk and the inventor along with any number of individuals associated with the research and/or patenting process could stumble.  That is, the research product could become entangled-ensnared in various legal disputes and challenges, fail to be effectively marketed, and/or resources being withdrawn to maintain the patent.

In far too many instances, I find the intangible asset offspring (enablers) of IP are being overlooked, dismissed, or overshadowed by the assumption that the time honored practice – strategy of pursuing conventional intellectual property, i.e., patent applications, provisionals, licensing, etc., are perceived as either the best or only option.  Of course, I disagree.

To that point, an analogy may be in order.  When one seeks the guidance of SEO (search engine optimization) firms to promote their website and/or blog, the business development – marketing officers’ lead statement will consistently be some variation of ‘we’ll get you on page one of Google’.  The reality is, there is no guarantee that getting a website or blog post on page one of Google will produce the all-important conversions that many assume will come naturally.  Yes, entrepreneurs can rationalize that all it takes is one good (the right) ‘conversion’ to kick start a company down the path to riches.  But, reaching ‘page one of Google’ may not be all that a startup company really needs to achieve sustainable financial success.  Instead, they are likely to be in need of a well-coordinated, focused, and specific strategy that effectively utilizes an array of internet resources and social media that presents many different options for exposure and conversion, not merely one!

So, for 2012 and beyond, inventors, researchers, companies, and institutions who engage in R&D, perhaps their initial call should not be to legal counsel, rather to an intangible asset specialists-strategist who can identify, unravel, and assess the enabling intangible assets and offer a variety of options and strategies that ‘fit best and work best’!

University Technology Transfer: Don’t Underestimate Intangible Assets As Valuable By-Products of Inventions

December 9th, 2011. Published under Analysis and commentary, University R&D, University Technology Transfer. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly     December 9, 2011

Most, if not all, university research (whether basic or applied) and subsequent inventions produce potentially valuable intangible assets that compliment and/or serve as supporting foundations to the invention’s intellectual property.  IP, after all, is what most technology transfer managers, faculty researchers, inventors, research administrators, and legal counsel initially focus, often times to the chagrin of intangible asset strategists.

In far too many instances, I believe, intangible assets are overlooked, dismissed, or certainly overshadowed by the time honored practice of university technology transfer processes of pursuing conventional intellectual property dominated strategies, i.e., patent applications, provisionals, licensing, etc.

Today’s road to successful technology transfer however, is increasingly lengthy, costly, and risky.  The prospects of developing the next royalty generating Gatorade are realistically few and far between.  But, that doesn’t and shouldn’t keep us from trying.

It’s an economic fact though, that 65+% of most invention’s value and foundations for (future) growth and revenue, especially faculty researcher generated (university-based) inventions, evolve directly from intangible assets.  This economic fact now makes it all the more prudent to factor into technology transfer processes, intangible assets! 

Why?, because in most instances, intangible assets underlie, are embedded in, and are valuable by-products of scientific innovations.  To consider intangible assets as after-thoughts or subordinate to intellectual properties relative to technology transfer invention assessments results in leaving potentially lucrative (licensing) opportunities and value on the strategic planning and negotiating table!

Similarly, narrowly conceiving university research, inventions, and technology transfer processes through conventional IP (patent – licensing only) lens diminishes any inclination to genuinely explore options, i.e., extracting and exploiting potential value from intangibles embedded in most every invention.

When intangible assets are overlooked or not properly factored into the technology transfer processes, their supportive and contributory value and even possibly defensive role for enhancing and sustaining the invention and underlying intellectual property will likely be irrevocably lost.  Increasingly, this bodes well for competitors (globally) who have the where with all to identify, and exploit (monetize) those assets for their benefit and profit but at the rightful owners’ expense.

There are multiple other benefits that can accrue to university technology transfer teams and faculty inventors’ when they identify and leverage the intangible assets associated with an invention versus lumping them in the catch all ‘goodwill’ bucket.  In other words, intangibles can and should be integrated into an inventor’s technology transfer strategic plan.

In the current knowledge-based global economy, 65+% of an institution’s value, sources of revenue, sustainability, and foundations for future growth lie in intangible assets.  Still, with that economic fact staring every university inventor and technology transfer manager in the face, identifying and exploiting their intangible asset by-products unfortunately still remains a hard sell!

While visiting  my blog, you are encouraged to browse other topics/subjects (left column, below photograph) .  Should you find particular topics of interest or relevant to your circumstance,  I would welcome your inquiry at  314-440-3593 or m.moberly@kpstrat.com

Academic Freedom & Institutional Openness: A Short History

December 1st, 2011. Published under University R&D. No Comments.

 Michael D. Moberly    December 1, 2011

 From the earliest days of the Republic until the dawn of modern global war, Federal policy has been largely supportive of the tradition in scientific research, particularly campus-based studies, of open communication, free exchange of information and wide publication.  The experience of World War II convinced the Nation’s leaders of the value of scientific enterprise for defending the country.

 Vannevar Bush, a strong opponent to any controls on scientific communication, stated in 1945 that, “there is no reason to believe that scientists from other countries will not, in time, re-discover everything we now know.  A sounder foundation for our national security rests in a broad dissemination of scientific knowledge upon which further advances can be more readily made than in a policy of restriction which would impede our further advance in the hope that our potential enemies will not catch up with us”.  (Vannevar Bush.  Science: The Endless Frontier. U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development, National Science Foundation. Washington, DC 1980 (originally published in 1945).

The subsequent Cold War, however, seemed to distort this recognition.  There appeared to be no limit to the number and kinds of contributions of science that were perceived by Federal officials to be vital to the national security of the United States and, therefore, in need of control to limit their availability. 

Consequently, despite the protests from the American scientific community, various restrictions were placed on traditional scientific communication.  Relief from these security controls occurred as Cold War anti-communism gave way to international trade and foreign policy of greater cooperation with the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies during the 1960’s.  As relations with the Eastern bloc deteriorated in the late 1970’s, culminating with the end of detent on the occasion of the Soviet invasionof Afghanistan, the old restrictions on scientific communication were slowly reactivated and new controls were also sought. 

Subsequently, during the first half of the 1980’s, American scientists saw a vast increase in national security controls on their professional communication, teaching, and speech.    (Relyea, Harold. Silencing Science: National Security Controls and Scientific Communication.  Ablex. Norwood, NJ 1994. Preface)

The debate emerged once again regarding scientific communication and national security. 

In March of 1982 as Department of Defense officials initiated discussions with the National Academy’s of Sciences and Engineering and the Institute of Medicine concerning ‘the acquisition and use of American science and technology.’ 

These discussions led to the creation of the Panel on Scientific Communication and National Security often referred to as ‘the Corson Panel’ named after the one time president of Cornell University who served as its chair.  The Panel was comprised of individuals representing industry, government, and the scientific (academic) community and was charged with examining this complex and critical issue.

The higher education research community was deeply concerned that, in the name of national security, the stage was being set (again) for the imposition of controls on the flow of information within universities, controls that would seriously affect the climate and operation of institutions and the benefits issuing from them to the nation.  (Gray, Paul E.  Technology Transfer At Issue: The Academic Viewpoint.  IEEE Spectrum, May, 1982)

Dr. Frank Press, former president of the National Academy of Sciences summarizes the issues of scientific communication in September 30, 1982 letter regarding the work of the Panel on Scientific Communication and National Security,  

 “…the issue of scientific communication and national security represents a most difficult policy issue. Advances in science and technology have traditionally thrived in an atmosphere of open communication and this openness has contributed to American military and economic strength and has been a tenet of American culture and higher education. 

However, recent trends, including significant increases in acquisition efforts by economic adversaries, have raised serious concerns that openness may harm US security by providing adversaries with militarily relevant technologies that can be directed against us. 

As would be expected when major national (security) interests are brought into question, signs of distrust appear on all sides of a growing public discussion.  The federal government, through its research and development agencies along with the university research community, where most basic research is conducted, will lose much if the government cannot find a policy course that reflects legitimate concerns.

There was consensus, amongst Corson Panel members, following completion of their work in late 1982, that universities and open scientific communication had been the source of very little of the technology transfer problem. 

However, the Panel did acknowledge there had been a net flow of scientific information from the U.S. to other countries.  That is consistent with the generally more advanced status of U.S. science, the Panel claimed, and there is serious doubt as to whether adversaries could reap significant direct military benefits from this flow in the near term.

 In late 1982, when the Panel’s report was formulated however, little was known about the steadily growing interest by business and government alike, in matters related to competitiveness and economics outside of traditional military or defense-related issues.  At the time, the highly specialized profession known as ‘competitor and economic intelligence’ was literally in it’s infancy, and there is little evidence that members of the Panel offered much credence to this burgeoning phenomenon since neither was characterized at the times as being global in scope or routine practices as they are today. 

A contributing factor to this assessment was that, at the time, the largely government sponsored intelligence empires still focused most of their acquisition and analysis attention on military, defense, and political subjects, not business, industry, economic or competitiveness matters.  (Scientific Communication and National Security. A report prepared by the Panel on Scientific Communication and National Security Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy.  National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. National Academy Press, Washington, DC. 1982)

In 1984, Dorothy Nelkin portrayed scientific knowledge (information) in a different and rather provocative way by characterizing  as a commodity that is vulnerable to commercial interests, public demands, and military controls.  The disputes about imposing controls on scientific communication reflect recurrent changes in governmental policies toward research in the direction of greater restrictions on the free flow of information, she said.  The disputes also reflect structural changes in the profession of science that are a source of tension as the norms and expectations of the scientific community conflict with current economic and political realities. (Nelkin, Dorothy. Science As Intellectual Property.  MacMillan. New York. 1984 p.91)

During the Cold War, threats posed by the Soviet Union were the primary focus of national security.  Counterintelligence efforts were concentrated on monitoring it. Intelligence collection activity directed at economic and technological information (in America’s private sector) was treated mostly as an adjunct to traditional espionage, not as a separate topic.  (Testimony of Louis J. Freeh, Director, FBI, before House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, Hearing on Economic Espionage, May 9, 1996)

The end of the Cold War however, brought about an emphasis on the connection between economic stability, vitality, and national defense.  And, beginning in the late 1980’s, national security was seen more in terms of economic strength and vitality than in terms of pure military capability. 

In the ‘global economy,’ no longer is there any practical or useful distinction between national economic relations and international economic relations.  Most national economies, like that of the U.S., are no longer islands where domestic consumer preferences alone dictate economic outcomes.  (Gregory, Sean. Economic Intelligence in the Post-Cold War Era: Issues for Reform. 1997 and William Warner, University of Kentucky)

And, while most government sponsored intelligence agencies today retain a general mission for external intelligence collection, many, if not most, have refocused their attention to include acquisition of economic intelligence versus exclusively military-defense related targets.  (Attributed to David Major, The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies) 


University Spin Off Companies: Better Management and Stewardship Of Intangibles Can Speed Up The Commercialization Process?

November 22nd, 2011. Published under Corporate - University Research, Intangibles as strategic assets, University R&D. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly     November 22, 2011

Intuitively, the speed which a (university-based) spin-off company can deliver its invention is a critical factor to its overall success and attractivity for (continued, future) investment. The question presented here is, can consistent stewardship, oversight, and management of the ancillary-complimentary intangible assets which are integral by-products to faculty researcher inventions make the process quicker?

A quick, but obviously biased, answer is an unequivocal yes!

More convincingly though, in a still relevant study produced by Ans Heirman and Bart Clarysse formerly of Ghent University and now with ScientificCommons, put forth the notion in their paper titled ‘Do Intangible Assets at Start-Up Matter for Innovation Speed?’

In their paper, the authors found that intangible assets such as:
• start-up management team and founder experience, tenure, routines, and cross-functionality
• alliance and/or collaboration agreements with other relevant parties and organizations
…combine to serve as important and contributing factors to innovation speed in terms of execution.

Experienced entrepreneurs know innovation speed, i.e., time to market for new product launches is important for many reasons, key among them are to gain:
• early investment to achieve more (greater) financial independence,
• broader external visibility and legitimacy as quickly as possible,
• early competitive advantages, i.e., market position and possibly market share.

The researchers in the aforementioned study acknowledge innovation/development cycles can vary relative to, among other things, phases of product development tasks and phases, and the technologies required, etc., among other variables.
Again, no surprise here, other than making the argument once again, that identifying individual and/or inter-connected clusters of intangible assets that frequently emerge as ancillary and complimentary by-products of faculty research and innovation should not be dismissed, overlooked, or neglected as potential (and additional) sources of value, revenue, and literally potential ‘building blocks’ to compliment (future) innovation.

University – Corporate Research Consortiums: Are More Safeguards Necessary…

November 21st, 2011. Published under Corporate - University Research, Intellectual Property Rights, University R&D. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly    November 21, 2011

Within the university research community, there remain spirited and polarizing debates about the openness in which research is conducted, that is, the freedom and ability of faculty researchers to disseminate, communicate, collaborate, and publish at will, which incidentally, have long been recognized as the hallmarks of university-based research.

On one side of that debate stand those who favor retaining the long legitimated hallmarks of academic freedom. On the other side of the debate stand those who encourage safeguards be put in place to limit, set parameters for, if not prohibit some of the at will or discretionary freedoms conveyed in the former view.

There’s nothing particularly new about these opposing views. They have been espoused in essentially the same context since the 16th century. Experience suggests there is little middle ground on which to frame a consensus, bar one. That is, to dispassionately factor into the university-corporate research protection equation the realities embedded in today’s hyper-competitive, predatorial, and winner-take-all global R&D environment.

This can be particularly interesting in instances in which faculty generated research and/or an inventions produce special insights and findings that lead to valuable (business) competitive advantages that may extend not just to the primary corporate (research) sponsor, but eventually to other companies in that industry sector.

So, a key question for corporate – university research collaborations are the above realities sufficiently persuasive to ensure the inclusion of information asset safeguards to mitigate university generated data/research be overly vulnerable to theft, infringement, or compromise stemming primarily from sophisticated state sponsored global business intelligence collection operations.

These are acts which, if even reasonably successful will most certainly dilute if not irrevocably impair the research’ strategic value to the inventor and research sponsor. It can also allow competitors (globally) to gain substantial advance insights to permit them to achieve economic, competitive, and market entry advantages.

Walk me through-a-day-in-the-life of university research…An analogy may be useful as a potential starting point to advance this principled tug-of-war. For example, when company representatives go before a venture capital firm to seek funding, one of the series of questions (scenarios) a venture capitalist (VC) will invariably pose to obtain a better sense of the usefulness and viability of the product or service being pitched. Routinely, they will ask a company representative to ’walk them through’ a-day-in-the-life of a (target market) company in which the product or service being pitched is not currently in use.

The VC’s follow-up questions will then be framed as:
• is there a noticeable difference?
• will the company be better off?
• if so, what and how will those differences manifest and are they exploitable insofar as delivering economic and/or competitive advantages to benefit the company?, i.e., to become more profitable?, gain/retain customers?, create efficiencies?, improve morale?, etc.

It’s conceivable that a comparable, but objective and dispassionate ’walk me through a day in the life’ approach would be useful to advance the time honored academic freedom debate about faculty generated research and inventions.

Key (objective) questions that could be posed then to a faculty researcher such as:
• consider their ability to sustain unchallenged control, use, ownership, and value of their invention throughout its value-life cycle
• what does the researcher, research sponsor, and the university consider to be minimum foundation(s) for retaining viable options for (future) licensing and/or technology transfer?

University – Corporate Research: Are Safeguards Necessary Now?

March 11th, 2010. Published under Corporate - University Research, University R&D. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly   March 11, 2010

Within the university research community, there remain spirited and polarizing debates about the openness in which research is conducted, that is, the freedom and ability of researchers to disseminate, communicate, collaborate, and publish at will, which incidentally, have long been recognized as the hallmarks of university-based research.

On one side of that debate stand those who favor retaining those legitimate hallmarks of academic freedom, while on the other side of that debate stand those who encourage safeguards be put in place to limit, set parameters for, if not prohibit some of the at will – discretionary freedoms conveyed in the former view, particularly in instances in which the research will likely produce special insights, outcomes, and findings that potentially carry significant (business) competitive advantages that may extend not just to the primary corporate (research) sponsor, but eventually to other U.S. companies and organizations in that sector.

There’s nothing particularly new about these diametrically opposing views, as they have existed in essentially the same format since the 16th century.  Regardless, whichever side of this argument one may be inclined to embrace, my experience in this arena suggests there is little middle ground on which to frame – reach consensus, bar one.  That is, the opportunity to objectively and dispassionately factor into the university-corporate research equation the realities embedded in today’s intangible asset based, hyper-competitive, aggressive, increasingly predatorial, and winner-take-all global R&D environment. 

So, the question may be, do these (aforementioned) realities support the inclusion of specific safeguards to the university-corporate research equation beyond those that predominantly IT (security) oriented?  The objective is to prevent-reduce the vulnerability-probability that the sponsored research will be vulnerable to insider theft, infringement, or the ‘always on’ and incredibly sophisticated global business/competitor intelligence operations.  In other words, acts that, if even reasonably successful, will dilute and/or impair the research’ strategic value to its sponsor and/or allow, inadvertently or otherwise, competitors (globally) to gain advance insights that permit them to achieve economic, competitive, and market entry advantages.

Walk me through-a-day-in-the-life of university research…An analogy may be useful as a potential starting point to advance this principled tug-of-war.  For example, when company representatives go before a venture capital firm to seek funding, one of the series of questions (scenarios) a VC will invariably pose to obtain a better sense of the usefulness and viability of the product or service being pitched, is to ask a company representative to ‘walk me through’ a-day-in-the-life of a (target market) company in which the product or service is absent.  And then ‘walk me through’ a-day-in-the-life of that same company after the product or service becomes operational.  The VC’s follow-up questions will then be framed as w I see a difference?, will the company be better off?, if so, what and how will those differences manifest?, and how will those differences be exploitable to benefit the company?, i.e., to become more profitable?, gain/retain customers?, create efficiences?, improve morale?, etc.

It’s not inconceivable that a comparable, but objective and dispassionate ‘walk me through a day in the life’ approach would be useful to advance the time honored debate about university research.  Key (objective) questions that could be posed then to researchers/scientists are (1.) consider their ability to sustain unchallenged control, use, ownership, and value of their research throughout its value-life cycle,  and (2.) what do they, their university, and research sponsor consider to be minimum foundation(s) for retaining viable options for (future) licensing and/or technology transfer?

(In addition to being an information asset protection specialist, Mr. Moberly remains a consistent researcher and consultant on these matters which began while he was a member of the faculty at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale from 1982-2002.)