Institutions as Stepping-Stones: Rick Smalley and the Commercialization of Nanotubes

Institutions as Stepping-Stones cover

Cyrus C. M. Mody
Studies in Materials Innovation
2010, Chemical Heritage Foundation
27 pp
Soft cover, 8.5 x 11
$15.00

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The creation of the biotechnology industry in the 1970s brought a new feature to materials-based innovation: small, high-tech firms started by (or linked closely to) prominent academic scientists. Though there is a very long history of professors starting or consulting with science-based firms, the patenting of recombinant-DNA research by Herbert Boyer of University of California, San Francisco, and Stanley Cohen of Stanford University in 1980 marked a new, self-conscious era of professorial start-ups. With Boyer and Cohen’s patent the venture-capital industry expanded out of its most successful niche—funding spin-off firms from established semiconductor companies—and into financing professorial start-ups. Academic researchers, many initially ambivalent about commercial ventures, eagerly founded companies once they saw the fortune Boyer reaped in the initial public offering of Genentech. Legislation (most notably the Bayh-Dole Act) quickly passed to facilitate further academic start-ups.2 And regional economic-development offices in the United States and the world began cultivating clusters of professorial start-ups in the hopes of eventually rivaling Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area.

About Studies in Materials Innovation

Part of the Robert W. Gore Materials Innovation Project, this white paper series aims to illuminate the diverse contributions of materials innovation within the broader process of technological development in the contemporary age.

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