Friday, October 12, 2007

University-Industry Relationships: Impact of the Bayh-Dole Act

When the Bayh-Dole Act was passed in 1980, it was intended to strengthen collaboration between universities and industry. Instead, there is good evidence that in practice it has caused many companies to be wary of funding R&D at U.S. universities, and may be driving significant funding to foreign schools. Some of this evidence was persuasively presented by Susan Butts of Dow Chemical in statements before Congress in July 2007. Excellent food for thought.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Digital Piracy on the Run? A Big Win for Musical IP Holders

The first courtroom case against digital piracy by an individual consumer resulted in a huge win for the plaintiffs, holders of intellectual property for music.

Four major record companies — EMI Group, Sony, Bertelsmann AG and Warner Music Group all joined in the suit against Jammie Thomas. Charged with illegally uploading 24 tracks that could be downloaded by others for free, Ms. Thomas now faces a fine of $220,000. Ouch! This verdict will probably cause many others to settle out of court, and hopefully will encourage more people to think twice before stealing the copyrighted property of others.

Disruptive Innovation Where It Counts: Earthquake-Proof Housing for Emerging Nations

Kudos to Colorado State University and the Indonesia Aid Foundation for innovating where it really counts. They have been developing low-cost ways to make earthquake-proof structures to be used in emerging nations like Indonesia, where huge casualties are inflicted when earthquakes strike. The spirit of disruptive innovation is finding ways to reach low-end users and non-users with innovations that are convenient and affordable, often blindsiding those who are focused on the expensive, high-tech solutions. Earthquake-resistant buildings is a great example. Instead of designing complex foundations and sophisticated reinforcements, low-cost solutions have been found using discarded tires as a shock-absorbing element in the foundation of the building, and bamboo as a replacement for rebar in concrete.

They are going to need help to get these innovations in use globally, and there is a need for further work as well. There may be opportunities to exploit low-cost fibers and fabrics as part of the reinforcement for concrete structures, especially in high-stress areas. And better integration of ceilings into the earthquake-resistant design could help.

Partners could include Cemex and other cement manufacturers.

I'm also looking for innovations in low-cost water purification that can be run from solar power. Let me know your thoughts.