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Revealing the iceberg of academics’ commercial activity

Academics only tell their universities about a fraction of their consulting work, patents and spin-out companies. The full picture changes our view of knowledge transfer, says Markus Perkmann.

How should universities contribute to the wider economy? What kind of links do we want between research and business? And what policies will get us there?

To answer these questions we need to know where we stand—the present levels of knowledge transfer and commercialisation. But getting such a picture is difficult. Universities now offer help with patenting, start-ups and consultancy contracts, but academics are not obliged to channel their commercial activities through their institutions, so the full extent is not known.

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