NEW YORK – IBM and seven universities have agreed to embark on a series of collaborative software research projects and make the results of the work in fields like privacy, security and medical decision-making freely available.
The initiative, which IBM was expected to announce Thursday, is a break with the usual pattern of corporate- sponsored research at universities that typically involves lengthy negotiations over intellectual property rights.
The projects are also evidence that U.S. companies and universities are searching for ways to work together more easily, less hampered by legal wrangling about who holds the patents to research. Those negotiations, according to experts, can take a year or more, slowing innovation and prompting companies to team up with scientists and engineers in foreign countries.
The projects are being done under the guidelines of the Open Collaborative Research program, which began last year with several universities and four technology companies — Hewlett- Packard, Intel and Cisco, as well as International Business Machines .
“Universities have made life increasingly difficult to do research with them because of all the contractual issues around intellectual property,” said Stuart Feldman, vice president for computer science at IBM’s research laboratories. “We would like the universities to open up again.”
Feldman added, “We’re hoping these kinds of agreements, with both sides sharing their work as reusable knowledge that others can build on, will help that happen.”
The current problem, research experts say, is that well-intentioned policies meant to encourage universities to make their research available for commercial uses have gone too far. The shift began with the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which allowed universities to hold the patents on federally funded research and to license that intellectual property. Since then, universities have often viewed themselves as idea factories and, like many corporations, have sought to cash in on their intellectual property.
But there is a sense at both universities and corporations that the pendulum has swung too far, and that adopting less restrictive intellectual property policies could benefit both sides.
“Universities in the United States want to protect their intellectual property, but more and more see the importance of collaboration,” said Elisa Bertino, a computer scientist at Purdue University.
Purdue and Carnegie Mellon University have agreed to work with IBM researchers on a long-term project on privacy and security policy management. The appeal, Bertino said, is that IBM has a strong research team in security, and working with a corporation ensures that university researchers deal with real- world problems rather than pure theory.
“You want to work on problems where your research could have a big impact,” she said. “And this could be a way to collaborate with corporations, and be able to work on those kinds of problems.”
In addition to security and privacy, the joint projects will address software quality, mathematical optimization software, and clinical decision support software. Besides Purdue and Carnegie Mellon, the schools involved include the University of California at Berkeley; the University of California at Davis; Columbia University; Georgia Institute of Technology; and Rutgers University.
The projects are long-term efforts focusing on fundamental research to create building blocks of technology that will eventually be used in products.
While American and European companies are increasingly setting up labs in emerging nations like China and India, they still do most of their advanced research in developed economies, often in collaboration with local universities, according to a report published last week in Science magazine.
Nurturing that university-corporate collaboration will be an important ingredient in economic growth and national competitiveness, said Jerry Thursby, an economist at Emory University and the co-author of the research report in Science, written with his wife, Marie Thursby, a professor at the Georgia Tech College of Management.
“This ability to strike reasonable deals for both the corporate and university sides is a big issue,” Thursby said. “Nobody has really solved this yet but a lot of people are working on it.”
Fuente: International Herald Tribune