A good part of my time in the chemical industry was spent in the research labs of Eastman Kodak Company. I remember the standard jibes I used to get whenever I ventured out to other departments. Oh, so you decided to come out to the real world? How is life in the Ivory Tower?
Historically, research has carried a reputation of not consistently connecting with reality. To the extent that is true, the good news is increasing numbers of researchers are now waking up to the genuine need for connecting their research to the real world by looking ahead to business viability. It sure beats the alternative of having it sit in a library gathering dust. Lisa Stehno-Bittel is one of many scientists who testifies to that truth (Brianne Pfannenstiel, Dual Roles: University Researchers Take on Challenge of Marketing Discoveries Kansas City Business Journal, 1/25/13 pp. 1, 31):
My postdoctoral mentor thought that research was sacred, almost, and that our goal was to find the truth, and commercialization was not the point . . . Now that Im involved in it, I know that if you want to make an impact in healthwhether thats human health, animal health, whateveryou have to do this. You cant just publish that research paper and hope somebody else picks it up for you. Its just not going to happen. (p. 1)
The publish-or-perish mindset may persist among researchers, but at least it is being augmented toward the marketing angle too. Frank Kruse is the vice president of the Bioscience and Technology Business Center with the University of Kansas Medical Center. He definitely endorses the positive development of a marketing mindset:
An increasing number of institutions are recognizing the benefits of becoming forces for economic development rather than just simply the traditional research orientation. (p. 31)
As a result, we are seeing more startups with their genesis within academic research labs, and we are seeing faster evolution from the test tube to the marketable product. Getting the research folks more involved in the business end has created happy collaborations.
Research is great! Research is fun! Research is exciting! Nevertheless, at the end of the day, you also need to do a good job convincing others how your results can be used. It looks like we are well on our way to doing a much better job of that.
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