AAAS patenting report supports investment in public research

Publicly funded research is a catalyst for innovation as measured by patenting data, according to a literature review published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

In recent years, a large body of scholarship has emerged that relies on patent analysis to gauge the interplay between science and patenting, and assess the role government funding plays in patent production, if any. In this new report, Public Research Investments and Patenting: An Evidence Review, the director of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program surveys this literature to illuminate these influences and help policymakers, research managers, and others understand the ways public funding can interact with the innovation system.

First: Why patents?

The use of patents as a metric for evaluating innovation has come under criticism in recent years, and not without cause. However, studies have provided some validation that patent metrics can in fact say something useful about innovation and knowledge flows. For instance, there appears to be a correlation between patent citation metrics and performance improvements across several technology areas, and citation metrics can also point to novelty and to economic value.

Patents are not a perfect metric and should by no means serve as the sole indicator for evaluating public research investments, but patent-based analysis can nevertheless say something useful.

So what can we say? As explained in the report, there seem to be three major takeaways.

First, public research is increasingly connected with U.S. patent production, as universities and businesses seem to draw more and more upon output from publicly funded research to yield new patentable inventions. This includes research funded by most major research agencies.

Second, patents that rely on publicly funded research seem to be of a slightly different quality, offering greater novelty and technological impact that can seed new technology fields, including those neglected by industrial research funders.

Lastly, public research funding seems to be able to increase the rate of patenting, through a variety of mechanisms and across high-tech sectors. This effect may be particularly important for small firms, for whom external financing of research and commercialization may be particularly critical.

Read more and download the full report:

FLC News