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R&D Data Platform Built by Fuqua Faculty Now Available to Public

Published: 4 weeks ago | 0 comments

Ashish Arora and Sharon Belenzon have been researching a problem for years. Now, their research is culminating at a time when it may matter the most.

The pair have tracked a large-scale change spanning over the last three decades in American industries’ relationship to research and design.

The status quo used to be that large American corporations invested in internal research by developing their own labs for research.

But in the 1980s, that began to change. Corporate labs began to decline, and a greater reliance on university-funded and publicly-funded research emerged. Many other researchers have noted these trends, but Arora and Belenzon, along with collaborators, have been the first to document these trends systematically.

Both faculty members at Fuqua, Arora and Belenzon have compiled data on all publicly-traded companies that report R&D expenditures. For researchers everywhere, a natural question is why this decline has occurred. The possible culprits include competition from low wage countries like China, short-termism among managers and stock-market investors, and the inability of firms to monetize their research. Arora and Belenzon are currently engaged in research that hopes to answer Their research findings are available here and here.

However, with a view towards informing the public discussion of these trends, they are making their data and findings available through the web. That web platform, called “The Golden Goose,” is now available for public use.

Users of the platform can see trends across an entire sector or can search for specific companies. Each company has information attached to it, with data ranging from 1980 to about 2006. This data includes the research side – everything researchers from the company have published – and the development side – all the patents the company has taken out. Platform users can also see various pie charts that provide information such as a breakdown of internal company users of the company’s research, as well as external users of the science. Accompanying line charts show, across the board, that companies’ emphasis on research has declined.

Arora and Belenzon believe that this platform lays out the data in a way that could be instructive to policy change.

“It’s a question of budget priorities,” Arora said. “The proposed budget cuts funding for science and technology, but the data show that over the long term, company funding for research is not going to grow; someone else will have to fund research. Public support for research will be vital for the U.S. to not lose its leadership in science and technology research and to maintain its stance as a place companies want to go.”

Putting it simply, Belenzon said, “Even today, about 30% of the research in the United States is funded and performed by corporations. This corporate money for research is likely to decline, and something has to replace it”.

That’s what the pair hopes to convince legislators of. They have participated in several events in D.C., from a conference discussing the decline of corporate research to a briefing for U.S. Senator Chris Coons.

Aside from policymakers, Arora hopes the data will be useful to researchers and entrepreneurs. “The Golden Goose” will be hosted by the Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative, and Belenzon said that entrepreneurs could use the data to understand how their university-based research may be used by large corporations.

“What’s happening to innovation is being measured here,” Arora said. “For people studying an entire sector, one glance can show how patenting and publishing in the sector behaved.”

For now, the Golden Goose data spans until 2006, when the pair stopped meticulously tracking this kind of data, but are planning to seek external support to update the platform.

But by releasing the platform to the public, they hope to help people understand the changing relationship between research and development.

“Science is the golden goose, and patents are the golden eggs it lays,” Arora said.

By Katie Jansen, Duke I&E

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