From a Means to an End: Patenting in the 1999 Danish ‘Act on Inventions’ and its Effect on Research Practice
This paper examines the potential pitfalls for academic research associated with goal displacements in the implementation of goals and indicators of research commercialization. We ask why patenting has come to serve as the key policy indicator of innovative capacity and what consequences this has for the organization of academic research. To address these questions, the paper presents a case study from Denmark on, firstly, why and how the 1999 Danish ‘Act on Inventions’ introduced patenting as a central instrument to Danish science policy and, secondly, the effects the Act has had on Danish university organization and research practices. We trace why and how commercialization was introduced as an important objective in Danish science policy since the 1980s. The increased focus on patents is explained as an isomorphic adjustment to an international ‘science policy field,’ manifested in particular through OECD statistics, where patenting has come to serve as a key metric in international rankings. In a second step, we examine what effects the patenting requirements have had on organization and research practice at a Danish university. We show that in practice ‘number of patents’ changed from serving as an indicator of innovative capacity to being a policy goal in itself, thus in effect producing a goal displacement that is potentially damaging for both academic research and innovation capacity of the surrounding society. As a consequence of this goal displacement, active scientists now increasingly engage in patenting primarily as a means to fulfill organizational targets and to increase their ‘fundability,’ rather than to promote commercial applications of their research. In conclusion, we discuss how these unfulfilled policy ambitions have led to a retrospective redefinition of policy goals rather than an adjustment of the actual policy tools.
KeywordsPatenting Commercialization of research Intellectual property rights (IPR) Science policy Goal displacement Isomorphism University performance contracts OECD Denmark
- DEA. 2013. Fra forskning til faktura – hvad kan vi lære af ti års forsøg på at tjene penge på forskning? Copenhagen. https://dea.nu/sites/dea.nu/files/Web_Fra%20forskning%20til%20faktura%202_0.pdf. Accessed May 2015.
- Edgerton, David. 2004. ‘The linear model’ did not exist: Reflections on the history and historiography of science and research in industry in the twentieth century. In The Science–Industry Nexus: History, Policy, Implications, eds. Karl Grandin, and Nina Wormbs, 31–58. New York: Watson.Google Scholar
- Frickel, Scott, and Kelly Moore. 2006. The New Political Sociology of Science Institutions, Networks, and Power. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
- Innovation, S. f. F. o.. 2014. Kommercialisering af forskningsresultater 2014 - og kortlægning af vidensamspil i bredere perspektiv. Copenhagen, Styrelsen for Forskning og Innovation. file:///Users/christian/Desktop/DE-Vidensamarbejde-under-lup-2014.pdf. Accessed May 1 2015.Google Scholar
- Mejlgaard, Niels, and Kaare Aagaard. 2009. Hvilken slags politik er forskningspolitik - nu? Økonomi og Politik 82(2): 50–66.Google Scholar
- OECD 1996. The knowledge-based economy. The Organisation of Economic Development and Collaboration. Paris.Google Scholar
- Pedersen, Ove Kaj. 2006. Corporatism and Beyond: The Negotiated Economy. National Identity and the Varieties of Capitalism. In The Danish Experience, eds. John Campbell, John Hall, and Ove Kaj Pedersen, 245–270. Copenhagen: DJØF Publishing.Google Scholar
- Sarewitz, Daniel. 2016. Saving Science. The New Atlantis (Spring/Summer 2016): 5–40.Google Scholar
- Soerensen, Henning. 1999. Demands on and Expectations from Research Evaluations, from the Macro to the Micro level. In Science Evaluation and Its Management, eds. Václav Pačes, Ladislav Pivec, and Albert H. Teich, 51–59. Amsterdam: IOS Press.Google Scholar
- University of Copenhagen. 2012. Strengthening Collaboration Worldwide http://rektorat.ku.dk/strategi/KU_strategy_collaboration_private_enterpriseMAY12_1_.pdf/ Accessed May 2015.
- University of Copenhagen. 2015. About the division http://fi.ku.dk/english/about_fi/ Accessed June 2 2015.
- University of Copenhagen. 2016. Commercialisation http://business.ku.dk/commercialisation Accessed October 30 2017.
- Winickoff, David. 2013. Private Assets, Public Mission: The Politics of Technology Transfer and the New American University. Jurimetrics 54(1): 42.Google Scholar