Managing the exploitation of intellectual property : an analysis of policy and practice in nine UK universities
In May 1985 the Government removed the British Technology Group's (BTG) right of first refusal on intellectual property arising in the course of Research Council-funded projects UK universities were offered the opportunity to assume rights and responsibilities previously enjoyed by the BTG, provided their policies and procedures fulfilled certain conditions. In particular, the government wished universities to a) give the fullest opportunity and scope to researchers to assume responsibility for exploiting their research findings; b) encourage researchers to assume this responsibility; c) provide guidance and help for those academics who wished to assume this responsibility. The aims of this thesis were. i) to generate a body of data about the ways in which nine UK universities handled the exploitation of IP between 1970 and 1990; ii) to use this body of data to assess - in relation to those same universities - the extent to which current policy and practice vis-a-vis the exploitation of IP accommodate the government's wishes, as outlined in a letter from the Chairman of the SERC and a statement issued by the Secretary of State for Education, both dated 14 May, 1985, iii) to begin to develop theory in relation to the exploitation of IP in these nine universities. This thesis adopts a research design based exclusively on case studies. It adopts a grounded rather than a logico-deductive approach to data collection and theory development, initially, data collection was informed by an extensive literature review. Data were elicited in 1989/90, primarily through tape-recorded, face-to-face, structured interviews with policy-makers and policy-implementers in the nine universities, and with policy "users" (heads of department, deans, enterprising and entrepreneurial academics with IP to exploit) Data from histories, documents and records were also collected. The thesis analyses policy and practice and evaluates the nine universities' performance with regard to measures a) - c) above. Establishing widely differing performance, it explores the processes which led to this. Further, it explores the extent to which policy "users" were aware of their university's policy and practice in relation to the exploitation of intellectual property, and their views on it. The thesis concludes that universities which created structures and made appointments to manage the exploitation of IP with a view to its extrinsic value have a less considered approach than those which did so on grounds of its intrinsic value, they are also less likely to have accommodated the government's wishes. More broadly, it also concludes that the introduction of this mechanism to replace exploitation via the BTG is a classic example of the UK government transplanting policies and mechanisms from other countries with no prior attempt to identify the processes and contexts which contribute to their success or failure in their native country, and little or no prior attempt to get to grips with the implications of transplanting them into the UK. Further, it concludes that local conditions can - and do - impact (positively or negatively) on the operation of a transplanted mechanism such as this. Finally, it concludes that identifying and evaluating those local conditions is unlikely to be a straightforward task.