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Companies rely on publicly funded basic research

Kristian Mørk Puggaard
DAMVAD Analytics a/s

Last week an international gathering of universities, companies and policy makers took place in Trondheim. The aim was to share best practise about how to quantify the impacts of universities and their collaboration with companies.

The results presented all point in one direction: Collaboration between technical universities and companies yields positive economic impacts for companies.

And this signifies that universities, when done wisely, are able to build a bridge between the basic research and the commercial use of the knowledge.

These days we see an important trend. As a consequence of the public budget constraints and cut downs on university research, leading companies one by one take the stand that government-funded research is imperative for private sector success.

This is well documented in a new article in the Harvard Business Review. The conclusion is striking:

"Government-funded research is behind any significant new product. Even Google got its start from a federal grant"

Not long ago Executive Vice President and CSO in Novo Nordisk Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen stated that they have never made a basic discovery. They rely heavily on universities and they reap the fruit of publicly funded basic research. In a study for Novo Nordisk we did a couple of years ago, we illustrated the journey in the way that you’ll se on page 22 in our report.

The message is clear: Companies don’t do basic research - they need university collaboration for it. Basic research enables societies to generate more growth and make solutions for grand challenges.

In DAMVAD Analytics we have throughout the years applied global best academic practise to measure the impact on private sector of universities – seen from the university side, from the company side and from the government side. And we often do find positive impact on private sector performance. However, we need high quality publicly funded basic research in order to be spread through university mechanisms to the society. In economic terms, these can be seen as investments with a high return.

The leading global companies are evidence for this.