Prof. Dr. Alan Hughes of the University of Cambridge addresses the Open Innovation Challenge for universities. He feels European innovation policy is being inspired by a cult-like belief in the would-be performance of both regional start-up companies and patents. Clearly, a cult focus is very different from a sound innovation policy.

Where universities implement Europe’s innovation policy by focussing on successful start-up companies they call ‘gazelles’, Professor Hughes sees gazelles as eating a lot of grass, and being eaten by predators. Similarly, he argues, start-up companies use up a lot of resources before they are being eaten by larger companies.

In his opinion, to attain a large impact the better focus are large, possibly multinational players. Simply put, large players have a large impact, whereas small companies have a small impact. Professor Hughes argues that universities can play a role in innovation by supplying knowledge to these large players. However, transfer channels other than patents and start-ups are key to linking universities to these large players. He recommends to shift the current focus of transfer activity from ‘gazelles’ as successful start-up companies towards a holistic approach on knowledge transfer channels.

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