Ph.D Orville R. Butler gave a lecture in IHNS
Ph.D Orville R. Butler, the Associate Historian in the American Institute of Physics, gave a lecture in the institute for the history of natural science, Chinese Academy of Science on 2 November, 2010.This lecture, which named “The Evolution of Industrial R&D and Physics based Technology Transfer in the US since World War II”, attracted a lot of scholars and students from the Institute of Policy and Management (IPM), the Tsinghua University, the Capital Normal University and the IHNS.
For about thirty years after World War II American Corporation built centralized R&D Centers, hired the best and brightest scientists they could get and, with minimal constraints encouraged them to do research. These central laboratories were funded by the Corporation through a levy on its operating divisions. The many important discoveries made Bell Labs, IBM labs, RCA labs, Xerox PARC and other centralized corporate R&D centers were then “tossed over the wall” for the operating divisions to use. The last major centralized laboratory in the US was Xerox PARC established in 1970 (Though some might argue that Microsoft’s R&D Center founded by Nathan Myhrvold in the late 1980s remains an exception). By the 1980s, however research in the central R&D labs began to transition from a focus on research to a focus on Development as many of the labs were renamed “Technology Centers.” Rather than doing research to create “new knowledge” technology centers focused on surveying new knowledge created elsewhere for possible acquisition and development within the corporation. Of course much fundamental research remained within universities and government laboratories and because of the Bayh-Dole act of 1980 universities were encouraged to commercialize their intellectual property. As a result the marketplace became a source for commoditized new knowledge, or innovation, where that new knowledge might come from research, but corporations would acquire new knowledge or new arrangements of knowledge and transform them into products related to their core business. The discovery of new knowledge might happen anywhere, but often its transmission into a marketable commodity took place in entrepreneurial startups. The role of research in these startups varies greatly and do a large degree appears to be correlated to the funding models for these startups. Our preliminary research into how physicist entrepreneurs fund their startups has thus far identified four funding models each with a different pattern of R&D. Our discussion of these transitions is based on about 120 interviews of physicists at 15 of the top 25 employers of physicists and provisional results from our ongoing interviews with (currently more than 50) physicist entrepreneurs.