Buoyed by enabling legislationand scientific advances, institutions are aggressively shopping their facultiese 'blue-sky' investigations.
In the past decade, university technology transfer has moved into the spotlight. Several hundred schools are now participating in what was once a relatively obscure function at a few institutions. Government, industry, and venture capitalists, in seeking successful commercial products to develop, are keenly interested in what researchers are creating today. But universities and their researchers have displayed varying levels of interest and uneasiness about this trend, which blurs some traditional boundaries between academia and industry.

Howard Bremer, former patent counsel for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the patent-management organization for the University of Wisconsin, Madison, points out that universities are the only sector in the United States doing "blue-sky research," that is, pure investigation without product orientation. And that, he says, is exactly this type of nondirected work that yields the best technology: "In the...

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