Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Reading :: New Wealth

New Wealth: Commercialization of Science and Technology for Business and Economic Development
By George Kozmetsky, Frederick Williams, and Victoria Williams

George Kozmetsky was dean of the School of Business at the University of Texas as well as the founder and first director of the IC2 Institute. Since I've been doing with IC2 and specifically with technology commercialization, I thought I'd better pick up this 2004 book.

Kozmetsky was an enthusiastic promoter of the development of socially responsible capitalism. In this book, he and the other two authors describe a research agenda for understanding technology-based enterprise creation, "with the initial goal of identifying those variables apparently critical in the creation of businesses where success was based on the commercialization of technologies, application or both" (p.13). Their research, they say, confirmed:

  • technology as a type of wealth, one that may need new measurements
  • the need for technology policy
  • the interactions among markets, no one of which is wholly insulated from others
  • the need for effective management and entrepreneurial training
  • technology transfer as a process
  • fast-company design
  • new management strategies
  • the consequent need for enhanced applied research (p.14)
They list policy implications (pp.14-15), which amount to finding ways to encourage technological activities through public policy that appropriately harnesses private talent and enterprise.

Throughout the book, they discuss relevant concepts, often drawing from other IC2 and IC2-adjacent publications. For instance, Chapter 8 is about creating the technopolis; it summarizes the insights from Smilor, Kozmetsky, and Gibson as well as Gibson and Rogers. Chapter 9, Adoption of Innovations, treads the same ground as Rogers

They also clarify some pieces that I haven't seen discussed elsewhere. For instance, they succinctly summarize factors of technology commercialization: 
  1. "Technology is a constantly replenishable national resource."
  2. "Technology generates wealth, which in turn is the key to economic, social, and political power."
  3. "Technology is a prime factor for domestic productivity and international competitiveness."
  4. "Technology is the driver for new alliances among academia, business, and government."
  5. "Technology requires a new managerial philosophy and practice." (p.62)
In technology commercialization, R&D results are "transformed into the marketplace as products and services in a timely manner" (p.65). Traditionally, "industrial laboratories concentrate on mission-oriented products and universities confine themselves primarily to basic research and teaching," but this approach is inadequate, resulting in fewer opportunities, more layoffs and closures, a weaker global position, poorer regional and local development, and poorer growth opportunities. "Since 1996, a new paradigm has been emerging ... [which] includes institutional developments involving academia, business, and government technology venturing." This new paradigm involves "accelerating the successful commercialization of innovation in a competitive environment" (p.65). (For examples, see my recent papers on technology entrepreneurship education.) 

Related, the authors have a chapter on industrial parks and incubators. This chapter includes a short history of the IC2 Institute's Austin Technology Incubator (p.85). In 1989, ATI was founded. In 1995, it moved into the MCC building (p.85). 

Chapter 15 reviews "The Austin Model"; I want to note this chapter for later, but I won't review it.

Finally, the book concludes with Chapter 20, "Toward Capitalism with Conscience." Specifically, "we will consider the 'conscience' of capitalism as that of avoiding or rectifying inequities in the sharing of wealth and prosperity" (p.200). The authors draw on Milton Friedman here in claiming an interdependence between free enterprise and freedom (p.201). More skeptical readers may be reminded of Boltanski and Chiapello's claim that capitalism always reconfigures itself to incorporate its critiques.

In all, this was a useful book for me in terms of understanding IC2, ATI, and Austin as well as technology commercialization's raison d'etre more broadly. If you're interested in such things, definitely pick it up.

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