[LINK] Einstein's fridge an example for NICTA?
Tom.Worthington at tomw.net.au
Mon Dec 11 09:26:52 AEDT 2006
I wrote Mon, 04 Dec 2006 08:43:00 +1100 (was: "IT Innovation Seminar,
6 December, Canberra"
>The Challenges of Research in ICT: What can we learn from the Past
>- with a focus on the case of INRIA, France ... Professor Alain
>Bensoussan ... University of Texas ... 6 December, 2006 ...
Professor Bensoussan talked about the role of government funded IT
research organisations, such as INRIA (the French research body he
headed), in supporting national goals for industry development. He
argued that INRIA had been successful in producing good fundamental research.
Professor Bensoussan is in Australia talking to NICTA and his
comments were very relevant to NICTA. Like France, Australia had a
blend of government and private organisations involved in research.
It has provincial and national governments with diverging interests
in economic development. It has to come to terms with the
globalisation of industry and of research and development.
Professor Bensoussan argued Australia was well placed as a western
country in Asia to take advantage of opportunities in Asia, China and
India. Having visited China and India, I have seen those
opportunities, but how do we make them happen?
What was less convincing in Professor Bensoussan's talk was his
argument as to the value of organisations such as INIRA and NICTA to
their national sponsors. He argued the US "Stanford Model" of
spinoffs from research into companies did not fit with the European
approach to R&D. However, he was unable to point to a successful
alternative in Europe, with IT research funded by government leading
to industrial development.
This points to a major weakness in the Government strategy behind the
development of NICTA. Essentially NICTA follows the European model:
fund good research and hope it is of economic benefit somehow, some
time. The result is likely to be the same as in the French case: the
rest of the world will thank Australia for contributing to the
overall increase in knowledge and then commercially exploit our
research to sell products back to us.
We should not be surprised if NICTA fails to produce any economic
benefit for Australia, if we fail to plan how to obtain such benefit.
One alternative model is the "Cambridge Phenomenon", which I saw on a
visit to the University of Cambridge (England). This model has the
university actively involved in investment in startup ventures based
on the university research. But it also has informal connections
between the researchers and industry. A contributing factor is the
limited tenure of the researchers, so they are forced to go out and
set up a company after a time.
Whatever the model, we need one. All those conducting research at
NICTA using government money need to be asked the question I ask
every PHD candidate giving a seminar at the ANU: "How are we going to
make money out of this?".
ps: Perhaps we can draw inspiration from Albert Einstein. While doing
fundamental research he patented a refrigerator, which was licensed
to European appliance makers, who paid royalties:
Tom Worthington FACS HLM tom.worthington at tomw.net.au Ph: 0419 496150
Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd ABN: 17 088 714 309
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617 http://www.tomw.net.au/
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