Is the commercialisation of European academic R&D weak? - a critical assessment of a 'dominant belief' and associated policy responses
For some fifteen years it has been argued that Europe's research and industrial base suffers from a series of weaknesses, the greatest of which is the comparatively limited capacity to convert scientific breakthroughs and technological achievements into commercial successes. This perception of a strong European science base which is not translated into technological and commercial success has subsequently been labelled the "European Paradox". Over time the focus has shifted from discussing how European firms can increase their competitiveness, to the commercialisation of publicly financed R&D. There is a strong belief that the EU is under-performing in its ability to exploit and commercialise publicly funded science. Scrutinising the interaction between universities and industry at the European level is, however, fraught with empirical difficulties. The phenomena in question are complex, and require very detailed analysis using local knowledge and case studies. An interesting case in point for a detailed scrutiny is Sweden in which a perception of a Paradox has influenced policy discussion for two decades. The first purpose of this paper is to critically assess a) the validity of this dominant belief of a poor commercialisation of academic R&D, and b) the actual and proposed solutions to handle that problem. In addressing this first purpose, we focus empirically on the case of Sweden. With high R&D spending and a long standing perception of a "Swedish Paradox", the Swedish case is, arguably, of particular value for a detailed analysis. First, we detail how the dominant belief has emerged over the past two decades. Second, we scrutinize the empirical foundation of the literature that upholds that belief as well as empirical indications that cast serious doubt on it. The second purpose is to critically assess the usefulness of copying US science policy solutions in Europe in which much attention is given to the ownership of IPR. This is done by returning to the EU level and draw upon literature in both the US and Europe. The paper ends with our main conclusions.
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