Scienceandindustry.org is intended to bridge the divide between the communities of science and business and accelerate the translation of scientific discoveries for public value. This site has been created with support from the National Biomedical Research Foundation as well as the team at the Center for Integration of Science and Industry at Bentley University.
The focus of research at the Center for Integration of Science and Industry is to better understand the process by which science is translated for public value, and accelerate this translation by engaging science and industry in interdisciplinary dialogue, scholarship, education, outreach, and service. In our society, there is an implied social compact in which the public supports basic science, and commercial enterprise is responsible for translation of scientific discoveries into products and value to the public. In the classical path for translational science, commercial enterprise has the responsibility for raising the capital required to develop a product, fashioning the fruits of science into a finished product, establishing scalable manufacturing capabilities, achieving regulatory approvals, and finally establishing a marketing, distribution, and support network for the product. By translating basic science into approved and marketed products, the commercial enterprise is expected to provide value to the public in the form of the material or personal benefits that accrue from the use such products, jobs, financial returns to individual and institutional shareholders, and economic growth.
Objective analysis suggests that this path to value creation is inefficient. In the workplace, advances in automation and information technology have produced proportionally smaller improvements in worker productivity, something that is known as the “IT Paradox.” In the biopharmaceutical industry, there has been little improvement in the number of products coming to market or the time/cost required for product development, despite radical advances in molecular biology, chemistry, and genomics. In agricultural science, it is estimated that there is a 30 year lag between scientific discoveries and corresponding crop improvements. In energy, research in distributed generation and alternative energy technologies have not provided products that can compete effectively with fossil fuels.
Looking at the big picture, while scientific and technological progress is classically described as being exponential, value creation has generally been a slow, linear process. That is not to deny that there have been salient successes; that certain dread diseases are now curable, that there are measurable improvements in health, agriculture, energy production, and the workplace, that investors have often made money investing in technology, that jobs have been created, and that technology has been a critical driver of economic growth; only that we should be able to do better, and that the public deserves greater value from their investment in science.
Our expectation is that better integration of scientific progress and business practice, in all their manifold complexity, holds the key to improving the efficiency of translating science for public benefit and tangible value. This integration requires a dialogue that transcends the silos between academic research in the natural sciences disciplines and research in business disciplines; a dialogue based on a conception of value that recognizes not only shareholder value, but also the value of translational products that benefit the lives of individuals, sustainable job creation, and economic growth; a dialogue that recognizes both the challenges of the present and the trajectory of change; and finally a dialogue that respects the complexity of interdisciplinary dialogue, differences in language and method, differences in motivation and metric, and differences in definitions of success and failure.
We believe these dialogues are only beginning. Over the next months and years we hope scienceandindustry.org will be a venue for all of you to contribute to this dialogue.
Fred Ledley, MD
Director Center for the Integration of Science and Industry
Professor, Natural & Applied Sciences and Management