Commercializing public research: One of the core subjects of the Innovation Policy Platform

This page in:

On January 16, the World Bank welcomed a delegation from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), led by Andrew W. Wyckoff, the director of the OECD's Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry (DSTI). Over the past two years, the World Bank Group and the OECD have developed a strong partnership as part of our effort to build the Innovation Policy Platform (IPP). The OECD delegation's visit took place within the framework the launch the IPP, which included a stimulating conference on inclusive innovation with MIT's Scott Stern as the keynote speaker. This post by Andrew W. Wyckoff, on the importance of public research commercialization to innovation, was originally published on the "OECD Insights" blog.

Do you know what FedEx, the well-known overnight shipping company, and Dell Computers, a multinational technology company, have in common? Both firms’ core business ideas were developed by young student entrepreneurs. There are many other stories out there illustrating that universities and other public research institutions (PRIs) are a major source of innovations.

In searching for new routes to growth, policymakers around the globe invest high hopes in public research. A premium is being placed on the contributions of public research to the creation of new knowledge capital. The way universities and PRIs operate is also changing, including notably the mechanisms and terms on which universities and PRIs are engaging with business and society. We also see that innovation is becoming more open and collaborative, and that knowledge circulates more quickly and more freely than ever. This inevitably has impacts on the commercialisation of public research.


Source: '

Recent work we conducted at the OECD on this topic demonstrates the importance of channels other than patents for the commercialization of public research. The idea that research results reach the private sector in the form of patents, licenses and spinoffs based on patents no longer corresponds to reality. The commercialization of public research through these channels has shown a general slowdown since the late 2000s. While patenting remains important, universities and PRIs are emphasizing other ways to commercialize their research, notably collaborative research, student entrepreneurship and faculty mobility, contract research and consulting.

Policymakers need to respond to the latest trends with new ways to support public-private knowledge exchange. Facilitating greater access to publicly funded research and data is critical. Moreover, new strategies to link teaching, research and commercialisation, such as student mentoring, can provide the new generation of students with the necessary skills to take their knowledge to markets.

Most important, policymakers must take a strategic view of the intellectual assets generated by public research, and they must demonstrate how these can contribute best to their national innovation system. The Innovation Policy Platform is a valuable tool to help policymakers reach this objective.

The IPP helps policy learn how innovation systems operate, identify good practices, and apply effective solutions. The technology transfer and commercialization, the universities and public research institutes and the intellectual property rights modules of the IPP discuss the critical factors that arise in debates about the commercialization of public research. The platform also provides information on different countries’ policies in this domain. This information is based on the OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook questionnaire.

The IPP is a joint OECD-World Bank initiative and, as such, seeks to facilitate knowledge exchange and collaboration across countries and regions on innovation policy. The current site is still a beta version. We plan to introduce collaborative features to more actively support the design and implementation of policies.

For the IPP to reach its potential, we rely on your experiences and feedback. I join my colleague Gerardo Corrochano, who leads the World Bank's Global Practice on Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship, in saying that we look forward to developing the IPP with you.

More information about Technology Transfer and Commercialization, and a larger version of the infographic accompanying this post, can be found at


Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000