Knowledge and innovation generated at universities can lead to the creation of high-impact spin-off businesses. Whether it is through the licensing of intellectual property, partnerships or other informal arrangements, the tech transfer process can play a critical role in shaping new industries and regional economic development.
Research by Eesley and Miller and Eesley and Roberts has demonstrated the role Stanford University has played in shaping the development of Silicon Valley and MIT’s contribution to building a world-class innovation hub in the Kendall Square district of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Rather than dipping too deeply into the tax break tool box to attract new business, state and local governments might do just as well to make their local skies more friendly. Some research I’ve recently completed suggests that the easier it is for venture capitalists to travel by air, the better the companies in which they invest do.
When my colleagues (Shai Bernstein at Stanford University and Richard Townsend at Dartmouth College) and I analyzed what happened when new airline routes were introduced that reduced the travel time between venture capitalists and companies in which they had invested, we found a robust result: the travel time reduction leads to an increase in innovation as well as a greater likelihood of an IPO. Moreover, the greater the reduction in travel time, the stronger the positive effect on portfolio companies.
Our results indicate that VC involvement is an important determinant of innovation and success. Far from just sitting back to see if their investments pay off, venture capitalists tend to be active investors. They want to be up close and personal with their companies. Better flight connections that enable them to do so lead to greater company success, we found.
MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer and Visting Scientist Barbara Dyer
From The Case Foundation
The Long Now Foundation’s Interval Café is a place for conversation about long-term thinking. Nestled in a concrete warehouse at San Francisco’s historic Fort Mason, the Interval was a fitting watering hole for the nearly 2,500 participants in the recent Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) gathering. SOCAP’s annual pilgrimage to Fort Mason brought together innovators, investors, foundations and social entrepreneurs to “build a world we want to leave to future generations.”
But drive an hour south from Fort Mason to Silicon Valley and you’ll be reminded that short-termism is deeply embedded in our business culture. This epicenter of tech start-ups is defined by a business development norm of launch, scale and exit. Investors are more likely to ask, “What’s your exit strategy?” than “What’s your long-term vision?”
Today’s young business leaders came of age in the era of “short-termism” where companies enter and exit in five to ten year cycles and compete in a world where workers average 11.3 jobs during their careers. Dramatic disruption in the 1980s due to globalization, recession and technological change gave way to financial markets’ relentless push for short-term gains. Jim Collin’s 1994 book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies may have been a last bow to long-term business thinking.
When a group of students recently met with me about getting MIT to divest from fossil fuels, I suggested a more effective approach: If they really want to mitigate climate change, I suggested, start by calling out politicians and others who continue to deny the scientific consensus about climate change and its causes. And as I thought about the need to hold people accountable for the consequences of their science denial, I realized that institutions such as my own — not just our students — also need to get off the sidelines. We need to do a better job of defending and championing scientific truth.
And we cannot wait. The title for a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that opened on July 18 gets it right:“Climate Change: It’s Happening Now.” But so, too, is denial, and not just of the manmade causes of climate change.
As upcoming goals, the United Nations should enact basic sanitation, healthcare and governance in failed or collapsing states not simply because of moral concerns, but because of our own safety concerns.
You would think we would have learned to deal with globalization by now. Goods, services, people, and money, and occasionally, diseases, flow across borders at a staggering pace. Little can stop these flows. Not walls. Not presidents. Not health authorities.
People, however, remain quite rooted in their local communities. So rooted that when a global health scare comes along, we only react when somebody we know, in our country, or somewhere we know well, is affected. Most people’s identity is local, not global, and not even international. Perhaps we should be glad. It gives focus. We attend to what is near. Perhaps, therefore, most of us underestimated Ebola. In Norway, nobody reacted when a nurse on volunteer duty in West Africa contracted the disease, but when she arrived in the nation’s capital for treatment, everyone noticed. In the U.S., nobody winked until a person died in Texas.