Every day, academics around the world are pouring over research into new technologies with the potential to change the world, yet much of that research never makes it out of the lab. A new project of the National Science Foundation wants to make sure that the best ideas make it out to the world.
A huge amount of technological innovation starts in universities -- from information technology to biotechnology to nanofabrication and beyond. As part of their academic mission, universities give professors and their research teams the freedom to experiment. In this way, they support the innovation process long before even a business incubator would.
But while there is an academic motivation for supporting research, for many institutions there is also a commercial motivation. Universities usually have partial ownership of technologies developed in house, and that can lead to extremely lucrative "technology transfers" where the university sells part or all of it's rights to a technology to an external actor. Those transfers pay for everything from new buildings to financial aid.
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