Commercial research boost wins praise

Steven Joyce.
Steven Joyce.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce has praised the University of Otago for changing its promotion policy to make it easier for staff involved in entrepreneurial research to move up the ranks.

Research and enterprise deputy vice-chancellor Prof Richard Blaikie said it was hoped the new policy would encourage more academics to carry out commercially successful research, providing a boost in revenue for both the university and the local economy.

''This will benefit local and national businesses, including new start-up businesses formed out of university research teams, with revenue flowing back to the university over time,'' he said.

However, Prof Blaikie did not expect the new promotion policy to have an immediate impact.

''The timeframes for getting significant revenue streams to flow back to the university from early-stage commercialisation activities can be long - 10 years or more in some cases.''

Mr Joyce said the policy was ''great to see''.

Richard Blaikie.
Richard Blaikie.
''Commercialisation is mutually beneficial for both academics and businesses - to academics in terms of ensuring that their research results in real-world solutions, and for businesses to help them grow and be more competitive in an increasingly competitive global environment.

''While commercialisation won't be applicable to all academic positions, it's important that institutions look at where they can incorporate it to foster and grow stronger links with businesses,'' Mr Joyce said.

Prof Blaikie said the policy made it easer for staff to include commercialisation activities alongside other performance indicators, such as how many articles they had published, when applying for a promotion.

''So, for example, when a patent is granted for a product or process that has arisen from university research, the policy outlines ways in which the inventor can include this for consideration in promotion activities,'' he said.

Asked if the policy would disadvantage staff who were not involved in commercial research Prof Blaikie said: ''The changes will not affect the value that the university places on other forms of research dissemination, including the publication of books, peer-reviewed journal articles, policy papers, theatrical performance or new music composition.''

Alongside the change the university was also updating its academic titles guidelines to better reflect the commercial activities staff are involved in.