Yesterday, Indiana University’s President, Michael McRobbie, dedicated the 40,000 sq. ft., $10 million, state of the art IU Innovation Center. Being from Indiana and the child of two IU alumni, this article intrigued me. Indiana is a state plagued by brain drain. Despite its many highly rated public academic institutions (no, Purdue is not a private school), after graduation, many alumni leave the Midwest. They often head to larger costal cities for greener economic pastures. The opening of this Innovation Center makes me wonder if such programs could work to combat Indiana brain drain?
At first this article seemed to indicate that it could. The IU Innovation Center holds facilities for not only university researchers but also for private start-up companies. One goal of the center is to take the most innovative products and concepts that are created there to the marketplace with the help of staff and students alike. The article sites two prior success stories of Angel Stories and Therametric Technologies; companies that after going public have remained in Indiana. However, the relationship between the university and private start-up companies left me with many concerns about reproducing this initial success. What is to say that these companies and researchers will remain in Indiana once they have developed their big-idea? When does IU stop worrying about innovation and start worrying about profit margins? Who has the IP rights?
Speaking of IP rights, another source of concern I had with this announcement from IU newsroom was the focus on patent development. The announcement celebrated that last year IU filed a record 167 patent applications. After our class discussion on the topic, I would argue that filing numerous patent applications is not always productive, nor always indicative of innovation. As detailed in my previous blog post on the backlogged patent process, patents are often just the first time someone has put an old idea on paper. How exactly do you see the relationship between patents and innovation? What do you think IU can do to keep the focus of the IU Innovation Center on innovation and not on patent applications filed and profits grossed?
For more on brain drain: http://www.midwestbusiness.com/news/viewnews.asp?newsletterID=15792