Science Powers Commerce': Mapping the Language, Justifications, and Perceptions of the Drive to Commercialize in the Context of Canadian Research

AuthorUbaka Ogbogu & Timothy Caulfield
PositionAssistant Professor, Faculty of Law and Faculty of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences/Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy
(2015) 1 CJCCL
“Science Powers Commerce”:
Mapping the Language,
Justi cations, and Perceptions of
the Drive to Commercialize in the
Context of Canadian Research
Ubaka Ogbogu* & Timothy Caul eld**
e push to commercialize publicly funded, academy-driven scienti c research has
emerged as a signi cant science policy challenge. In this article, we investigate
whether evidence of this push exists in Canadian scienti c research policies through a
comprehensive review of legislation, government policy instruments, funding agencies’
program and awards guides and policy statements, political commentary, and university
policies.  e study maps and discusses the language and justi cations used to promote
this commercialization push, and examines possible impacts on the Canadian research
environment.  e article also presents the views of some members of Canadian scienti c
research community regarding the push or pressure to commercialize their work.
* Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law and Faculty of Pharmacy &
Pharmaceutical Sciences; Katz Research Fellow in Health Law and Science
Policy, University of Alberta:; @ubakaogbogu.
** Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy; Professor, Faculty of
Law and School of Public Health; Trudeau Fellow; Fellow, Royal Society
of Canada and Canada Academy of Health Sciences; Research Director,
Health Law Institute, University of Alberta: caul;
@Caul eldTim.  e authors would like to thank Adam Ollenberger for
the research and editorial help and the Stem Cell Network, the CSCC,
and PACEomics (Genome Alberta) for funding support.
Ogbogu & Caul eld, Science Powers Commerce
I. I
II. S   J   C I
III. B H  E E  C R 
I  R E
IV. C
I. Introduction
The push to commercialize publicly funded, academy-driven scienti c
research has emerged as a signi cant science policy challenge.
Advocates of this push include Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada,
who recently declared that “science powers commerce,2 and President
Barack Obama, who has urged Americans to “win the future” and claim
“our generation’s Sputnik moment” by supporting government investment
in scienti c research that will create new industries and “countless new
jobs” and make the US economy more competitive.3 Likewise, Prime
Minister David Cameron, announcing a £180m “catalyst” grant for “new
British ideas,” referred to the life sciences as “a jewel in the crown of [the
1. Timothy Caul eld, “Talking Science – Commercialization Creep” (2012)
34:1 Policy Options 20 [Caul eld, “Commercialization Creep”]; Timothy
Caul eld, “Patents or Commercialization Pressure?: A (Speculative)
Search for the Right Target” (2012) 22:1 Journal of Law, Information and
Science 122; Timothy Caul eld & Ubaka Ogbogu, “Biomedical Research
and the Commercialization Agenda: A Review of Main Considerations
for Neuroscience” (2008) 15:4 Accountability in Research 303; Timothy
Caul eld, “Stem Cell Research and Economic Promises” (2010) 38:2 JL
Med & Ethics 303 [Caul eld, “Economic Promises”]; Jocelyn Downie
& Matthew Herder, “Re ections on the Commercialization of Research
Conducted in Public Institutions in Canada” (2007) 1:1 McGill JL &
Health 23.
2. Stephen Harper, “PM Announces Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships,
Support for Next Einstein Initiative” (6 July 2010), online: O ce of the
Prime Minister
3. Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President in State of Union Address” (25
January 2011), online:  e White House
the-press-o ce/2011/01/25/remarks-president-state-union-address>.
(2015) 1 CJCCL
UK] economy” and called for a new model of research and development
focused on “getting the best ideas through the proof of concept stage so
we can get them into clinical development and get our entrepreneurs
selling them around the world.”4 In the European Union, member states
have announced reforms aimed at linking research innovation with
“entrepreneurship, the business environment and the labour market, with
a strong focus on better commercialization of research results.”5 ese
claims and statements have generated some concern, especially regarding
whether this “ever-intensifying pressure to commercialize research
overstates what scienti c research can actually or realistically deliver.6
As one critic has observed, key features of the commercialization trend,
such as biotech start-ups and activities of university technology transfer
o ces, resemble Ponzi schemes because they purport by “all appearances
to be a success when careful measurement reveals … failure[s].”7
ere are, of course, arguments that can be put forward in support of
both perspectives. Contemporary commercialization initiatives are chie y
characterized by academy-industry partnerships, and public funding
support for research projects that are able to obtain matching private
sector funds, or that can show evidence of near-term commercializable
outcomes (or at a minimum, a clear route to commercial exploitation).
ese initiatives can and have produced bene cial outcomes, including
useful products, jobs, increased research funding and public-private
sector linkages.9 However, these initiatives have also been linked with
4. David Cameron, “PM Speech on Life Sciences and Opening Up the
NHS” (6 December 2011), online: GOV.UK .uk/
5. European Commission, “State of the Innovation Union 2012:
Accelerating change” (21 March 2013), online: Innovation Union
state_of_the_innovation_union_report_2012.pdf> at 10.
6. Caul eld, “Commercialization Creep”, supra note 1 at 20.
7. Philip Mirowski, “ e Modern Commercialization of Science is a Passel
of Ponzi Schemes” (2012) 26:3-4 Social Epistemology 285 at 296.
8. Ubaka Ogbogu, “A Review of Pressing Ethical Issues Relevant to Stem
Cell Translational Research” (2006) 14:3 Health Law Review 39.
9. Caul eld, “Commercialization Creep”, supra note 1; Ogbogu, ibid;
Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, Building on Values:
Ogbogu & Caul eld, Science Powers Commerce
adverse impacts on the integrity of scienti c processes,10 scienti c
collaborations, exchanges and “open science” initiatives,
11 loss of
public trust,12 hyped representations of research realities and outcomes
e Future of Health Care in Canada (Saskatoon: Commission on the
Future of Health Care in Canada, 2002).
10. Vincent Mangematin, Paul O’Reilly & James Cunningham, “PIs as
Boundary Spanners, Science and Market Shapers” (2014) 39:1  e
Journal of Technology Transfer 1; Riccardo Fini & Nicola Lacetera,
“Di erent Yokes for Di erent Folks: Individual Preferences, Institutional
Logics, and the Commercialization of Academic Research” in Gary D
Libecap, Marie  ursby & Sherry Hoskinson, eds, Spanning Boundaries
and Disciplines: University Technolog y Commercialization in the Idea Age
(Bingley, UK: Emerald Group, 2010) 1; Bertrand R Jordan & Daniel Fu
Chang Tsai, “Whole-Genome Association Studies for Multigenic Diseases:
Ethical Dilemmas Arising from Commercialization –  e Case of Genetic
Testing for Autism” (2010) 36:7 Journal of Medical Ethics 440; Philip
Morowski, Science-Mart: Privatizing American Science (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 2011); Francesco Rentocchini et al, “Working
Paper No. 2011/03: e E ect of Academic Consulting on Research
Performance: Evidence from Five Spanish Universities” (2011), online:
Ingenio Working Paper Series .es/sites/default/
les/working-paper/2011-03_-_the_e ect_of_academic_consulting_on_
research_performance_evidence_from_ ve_spanish_universities.pdf>.
11. Timothy Caul eld, Shawn HE Harmon & Yann Joly, “Open Science
Versus Commercialization: A Modern Research Con ict?” (2012)
4:2 Genome Medicine 17; Tania Bubela et al, “Commercialization
and Collaboration: Competing Policies in Publicly Funded Stem
Cell Research?” (2010) 7:1 Cell Stem Cell 25 [Bubela et al,
“Commercialization and Collaboration”]; Sotaro Shibayama, John P
Walsh & Yasunori Baba, “Academic Entrepreneurship and Exchange of
Scienti c Resources: Material Transfer in Life and Materials Sciences in
Japanese Universities” (2012) 77:5 American Sociological Review 804;
Shawn HE Harmon, Timothy Caul eld & Yann Joly, “Commercialization
Versus Open Science: Making Sense of the Message(s) in the Bottle”
(2012) 12:1 Medical Law International 3.
12. Christine R Critchley, Gordana Burce & Matthew Farrugia, “ e
Impact of Commercialization on Public Perceptions of Stem Cell
Research: Exploring Di erences Across the Use of Induced Pluripotent
Cells, Human and Animal Embryos” (2013) 9:5 Stem Cell Reviews &
Reports 541; Christine R Critchley & Dianne Nicol, “Understanding
the Impact of Commercialization on Public Support for Scienti c
Research: Is it about the Funding Source or the Organization Conducting
the Research?” (2011) 20:3 Public Understanding of Science 347;
M Norton Wise, “ oughts on the Politicization of Science through
Commercialization” (2006) 73:4 Social Research 1253; Ubaka Ogbogu &
(2015) 1 CJCCL
(especially in innovative  elds that have captured public attention and
purse strings, such as genetics and stem cell research),13 and neglect of
basic research programs.
14 e latter concern has generated some push
Amy Zarzeczny, “Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Translational
Stem Cell Research: E ects of Commercialization on Public Opinion
and Trust of Stem Cell Research” in Kristina Hug & Göran Hermerén,
eds, Translational Stem Cell Research: Issues Beyond the Debate on the Moral
Status of the Human Embryo (New York: Humana Press, 2011) 341;
Deborah Zucker, “Ethics and Technology Transfer: Patients, Patents,
and Public Trust” (2011) 59:5 Journal of Investigative Medicine 762;
Christine R Critchley, “Public Opinion and Trust in Scientists:  e Role
of the Research Context, and the Perceived Motivation of Stem Cell
Researchers” (2008) 17:3 Public Understanding of Science 309.
13. Caul eld, “Economic Promises”, supra note 1; Tania Bubela et al,
“Is Belief Larger than Fact: Expectations, Optimism and Reality for
Translational Stem Cell Research” (2012) 10:1 BMC Medicine 133;
Zubin Master & David B Resnik, “Hype and Public Trust in Science”
(2013) 19:2 Science and Engineering Ethics 321; Zubin Master & David
B Resnik, “Promoting Public Trust: ESCROs Won’t Fix the Problem
of Stem Cell Tourism” (2013) 13:1 American Journal of Bioethics 53;
James Porter et al, “On Being a (Modern) Scientist: Risks of Public
Engagement in the UK Interspecies Embryo Debate” (2013) 31:4 New
Genetics and Society 408; T Caul eld & C Condit, “Science and the
Sources of Hype” (2009) 15:3-4 Public Health Genomics 209; Cong
Cao, Richard P Appelbaum & Rachel Parker, “‘Research is High and the
Market is Far Away’: Commercialization of Nanotechnology in China”
(2013) 35:1 Technology in Society 55; Michael P Messenger & Paul E
Tomlins, “Regenerative Medicine: A Snapshot of the Current Regulatory
Environment and Standards” (2011) 23:12 Advanced Materials H10.
14. Laura Eggertson, “Scientists, Supporters Rally in Canadian Cities to
Support Basic Research” (2013) 185:15 Canadian Medical Association
Journal E707; Shirley Leitch et al, “ e Fall of Research and Rise
of Innovation: Changes in New Zealand Science Policy Discourse“
(2014) 41:1 Science and Public Policy 119; Gürol Irzik, “Why Should
Philosophers of Science Pay Attention to the Commercialization of
Academic Science?” in Mauricio Suárez, Mauro Dorato & Miklós Rédei,
eds, EPSA Epistemology and Methodology of Science (Dordrecht: Springer
Netherlands, 2010) 129; Leland L Glenna et al, “Commercial Science,
Scientists’ Values, and University Biotechnology Research Agendas”
(2011) 40:7 Research Policy 957; Lee Davis, Maria  eresa Larsen &
Peter Lotz, “Scientists’ Perspectives Concerning the E ects of University
Patenting on the Conduct of Academic Research in the Life Sciences”
(2011) 36:1 Journal of Technology Transfer 14; Hanna Hottenrott &
Susanne  orwar th, “Industry Funding of University Research and
Scienti c Productivity” (2011) 64:4 Kyklos 534; Dominique Foray &
Ogbogu & Caul eld, Science Powers Commerce
back from the scienti c community. For example, this past September,
over 200 Canadian university researchers rallied at the nation’s capital in
Ottawa to express dismay over government neglect of basic research in
favour of applied research programs and grants “that specify industrial
partnerships or are directed at solving applied research problems or at
increasing innovation and commercialization.”15
As the debate rages on, there remains a considerable lack of clarity
regarding the true nature and scope of this “commercialization creep,16
where the pressure comes from and the nature of the pressure it supposedly
exerts on scientists and the scienti c research environment. No studies
have explored, for instance, the actual sources of the commercialization
ethos or the language employed to express or justify the push or pressure
to commercialize science. Similarly, with the exception of studies that
have investigated the impact of commercialization trends on the scienti c
research environment, much remains unknown about how the scienti c
research community views this trend or pressure or about the impact
of existing commercialization programs on the conduct or culture of
scienti c research.
Francesco Lissoni, “University Research and Public-Private Interaction” in
Bronwyn H Hall & Nathan Rosenberg, eds, Handbook of  e Economics
of Innovation, vol 1 (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2010) 275; James A Evans,
“Industry Induces Academic Science to Know Less about More” (2010)
116:2 Americal Journal of Sociology 389; Ferric C Fang & Arturo
Casadevall, “Lost in Translation – Basic Science in the Era of Translational
Research” (2010) 78:2 Infection and Immunity 563; Martin Carrier,
“Knowledge, Politics, and Commerce: Science Under the Pressure of
Practice” in Martin Carrier & Alfred Nordmann, eds, Science in the
Context of Application (Amsterdam: Springer Netherlands, 2011) 11;
Daniel H Nickolai, Steve G Ho man & Mary Nell Trautner, “Can a
Knowledge Sanctuary also be an Economic Engine?  e Marketization of
Higher Education as Institutional Boundary Work” (2012) 6:3 Sociology
Compass 205.
15. Eggertson, ibid at E708.
16. Caul eld, “Commercialization Creep”, supra note 1.
17. Bubela et al, “Commercialization and Collaboration”, supra note
11; Glenna et al, supra note 14; Timothy Caul eld et al, “Patents,
Commercialization and the Canadian Stem Cell Research Community”
(2008) 3:4 Regenerative Medicine 483 [Caul eld et al, “Patents”]; CJ
Murdoch & Timothy Caul eld, “Commercialization, patenting and
genomics: researcher perspectives” (2009) 1:2 Genome Medicine 22;
(2015) 1 CJCCL
In Canada, there are several well-known examples of the degree
to which the political rhetoric has translated into tangible changes in
the way research is funded, such as the Alberta Government’s decision
to create the commercialization-focused Alberta Innovates (which
replaced the more research oriented Alberta Heritage Foundation for
Medical Research), and the federal government’s recent push to more
closely align the work of National Research Council with the needs of
18 However, despite the high pro le nature of these examples,
much remains unclear, such as the degree to which political commentary
about the commercialization imperative has penetrated formal research
funding requirements and expectations and, if it has, how that change is
explicitly justi ed.19
In this article, we seek to address some of these gaps through a
comprehensive review of over one hundred relevant Canadian documents
identi ed through database searches, including legislation; government
policy instruments; funding agencies’ program and awards guides and
policy statements; political commentary; and university policies. We seek
Yann Joly et al, “ e Commercialization of Genomic Research in Canada”
(2010) 6:2 Health Policy 24; Valentina Tartari & Stefano Breschi, “Set
em Free: Scientists’ Evaluations of the Bene ts and Costs of University-
Industry Research Collaboration” (2012) 21:5 Industrial and Corporate
Change 1117.
18. Eggertson, supra note 14; Carol Goar, “How to Modernize Canada’s
Science Policy; Report sees National Research Council as a Bridge
between Science and Industry”, Toronto Star (17 June 2013) A15; Peter
Howitt, “Let Curiosity Drive Commerce”, e Globe and Mail (6 June
2013) A17; Ivan Semeniuk, “Budget Ignites Science Debate; Questions
Arise over Merits of Basic and Applied Research as Government Tables
Funding Allocations”, e Globe and Mail (25 March 2013) A4; National
Research Council Canada, News Release, “Open for Business: Refocused
NRC will Bene t Canadian Industries;  e Government of Canada
Launches Refocused National Research Council” (7 May 2013) online:
National Research Council Canada
19. Eggertson, supra note 14; Goar, ibid; Howitt, ibid; Semeniuk, ibid; C
Scott Findlay, “Big Boasts, Little Proof; Ottawa Claims it has Provided
Unprecedented Support for Science.  e Evidence says Otherwise”,
National Post (8 April 2013) A14; Mia Rabson, “Federal Cuts Dubbed
‘Attack on Acience’ – Researchers to Protest with ‘Funeral Procession’”,
Winnipeg Free Press (10 July 2012) B3.
Ogbogu & Caul eld, Science Powers Commerce
to identify and thematically assess concrete sources of and justi cations
for the commercialization push in the context of the Canadian research
environment. However, we also brie y highlight emerging empirical
evidence on the impact of existing commercialization programs on
the conduct or culture of scienti c research and on the views of the
Canadian scienti c research community regarding the push or pressure
to commercialize their work.
II. Sources of and Justi cations for the
Commercialization Imperative
We explored documents from Canada’s federal and provincial research
funding agencies, from relevant publicly funded research non-pro t
organizations (e.g. Genome Canada), and from relevant research
institutions (e.g. universities). In short, we sought to identify and analyze
any language that could be interpreted as creating commercialization
pressure within the Canadian research environment. We found that
this ethos was ubiquitous. References to the imperative need to
commercialize scienti c research and justi cations for doing so exist in
most of the documents we reviewed, and permeate virtually all sources of
governmental and institutional science and funding policy.
Speci cally, the pursuit of commercialization is mandated by
federal and provincial legislation governing Canada’s research funding
agencies. For example, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research
(CIHR), the primary health research funding agency, is directed by
legislation to “facilitat[e] the commercialization of health research … and
promot[e] economic development through health research.”
20 Similarly,
legislation governing National Research Council Canada (Canada’s
premier organization for research and development) and key provincial
research policy and funding institutions such as Alberta Innovates;
British Columbia’s Innovation Council; Nova Scotia’s Innovation
Corporation; and New Brunswick’s Research and Innovation Council
variously mandate a focus on the following objectives: translating
research knowledge into clinical applications; promoting research that
20. Canadian Institutes of Health Research Act, SC 2000, c 6, s 4(i).
(2015) 1 CJCCL
will result in the formation of new industries or expansion of existing
ones; establishment of funding programs speci cally aimed at applied
research; job creation; “promot[ing] industrial, economic and social
development”; and translating research knowledge into lofty goals such
as improving Canadians’ quality of life and creating value for Canadians
(see Table A for more examples).
Beyond the realm of law and high-level policy, similar references and
justi cation abound in the other sources reviewed, notably in research
funding documents, granting peer review policies, and university
policies (see Table B for speci c examples of funding and institutional
statements). CIHR’s Grant and Awards Guide, for instance, includes
a provision that requires applicants for research funding to “endeavour
to obtain the greatest possible economic bene t to Canada from any
commercial activity resulting from research  ndings.”22 Genome
Canada’s Guidelines for Funding Research Projects states that grant
applicants “must describe, with supporting evidence, the deliverable(s)
that will be realized by the end of the project that will lead to social
and/or economic bene ts for Canada.23 Similar language is present in
the advertised funding opportunities included in our review, with some
opportunities requiring applicants to demonstrate that their research will
“accelerate commercialization”; “foster an entrepreneurial culture within
and around the health research community”;24 and facilitate “commercial
21. British Columbia Innovation Council Act, RSBC 1997, c 415, s 3; National
Research Council Act, RSC 1985, c N-15; Alberta Research and Innovation
Act, SA 2009, c A-31.7; Innovation Corporation Act, SNS 1994-95, c 5;
New Brunswick Research and Innovation Council Act, SNB 2013, c 5.
22. Canadian Institutes of Health Research, “CIHR Grants and Awards
Guide” (1 April 2013), online: Canadian Institutes of Health Research
23. Genome Canada, “Guidelines for Funding Research Projects” (June
2012), online: Genome Canada
PDF/en/2012-bcb-competition-guidelines.pdf> at 6.
24. Canadian Institutes of Health Research, “Proof of Principle: Phase I (Fall
2013 Competition)” (19 June 2013), online: ResearchNet .
Ogbogu & Caul eld, Science Powers Commerce
development of products”25 (see List A for more examples).
On the institutional side, universities in the Province of Alberta
are required to allocate institutional resources in a manner that ensures
“excellence in research, innovation, and commercialization” and that
the province’s economy “is competitive and sustainable,”26 while the
University of Toronto views research commercialization, speci cally,
translating research results “into products and processes with economic
and social bene t” as “an important measure of impact beyond the
University”27 (see List B for more examples).  ese statements and
policies express and govern the granting and institutional requirements
and expectations facing researchers, and operate informally as indicators
of successful research careers.
Viewed as a whole, our review con rms the presence of systemic and
systematic pressure on Canadian researchers to commercialize research
outcomes.  e overall message appears to be that commercialization
is now a central element and goal of the scienti c research enterprise.
Indeed, in the past decade, the federal and provincial governments have
allocated signi cant public resources to shifting the focus of Canadian
science towards this commercialization ethos.
28 At the federal level,
several initiatives and programs speci cally devoted entirely to research
commercialization have emerged in recent years, including the Centres
of Excellence for Commercialization and Research program (annual
budget: $30m) and the Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence
25. Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions, “AIHS Knowledge-to-Action
Grant” (2013), online: Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions>.
26. Government of Alberta, “Draft Letter of Expectation between the
Minister of Alberta Enterprise and Advanced Education and the Board
of Governors of the University of Alberta”, online: Change@UAlberta
27. University of Toronto, “University of Toronto Performance Indicators
2012: Our Research Excellence – Innovation and Commercialization”,
online: University of Toronto
28. Einar Rasmussen, “Government Instruments to Support the
Commercialization of University Research: Lessons from Canada” (2008)
28:8 Technovation 506.
(2015) 1 CJCCL
program (annual budget: $12m), both of which channel publicly
funded university research towards the commercialization pipeline and
to responding to challenges identi ed by industry.  e provinces have
established similar programs, including Alberta Innovates – Health
Solutions, which supports research activities that “create … health related
social and economic bene ts for Albertans,29 and Fonds de recherche
Santé Québec, a Québec government-backed funding initiative designed
to support scienti c and technological research that will “contribute to
Québec’s economic growth,”30 among other things.
Our review also revealed a number of justi cations for the push to
commercialize, including enabling improved health care and quality of
life; making the innovation system more sustainable (economically);
faster product development; creation of new industries and expansion
of existing ones; realizing returns on research investments; accountability
to taxpayers; promoting economic growth and social development;
job creation; and creating value for Canadians.  ese justi cations
were typically expressed in broad, aspirational language, with little or
no explanation regarding meaning, scope or how they can be achieved
in practical terms. Put di erently, the justi cations are presented in a
manner that suggests they are obvious endpoints.  e presentation also
does not provide any evidence to support the suggested link between
research commercialization and the stated justi cations (this is a topic
for further research), nor are there, in most cases, identi ed metrics for
measuring successful outcomes for each of the stated justi cations.31
Also worrisome, from a policymaking perspective, there is no mention
of the potential downsides or risks of commercialization.  is side of
the policy debate is completely absent from national, provincial and
institutional science funding policy. Given the evidence of possible risks,
this is a troubling absence as one would hope that emerging policy would
29. Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions, “Mandate and Roles Document”
(April 2010), online: Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions .> at 1.
30. Fonds du recherche du Québec – Santé, “FRQS Mission” (25 November
2004), online: FRQS
31. Rasmussen, supra note 28.
Ogbogu & Caul eld, Science Powers Commerce
explicitly recognize and balance both potential bene ts and risks.
III. Brief Highlights of Emerging Evidence on
Community Reaction and Impacts on Research
Existing studies from Canada and elsewhere have observed a disconnect
between policy and practice with respect to commercialization of publicly
funded research. For example, a recent study found that professionals
working in Canadian Technology Transfer O ces (TTOs) view their
practical role as supporting the social and academic missions of their
universities rather than their primary mandate, which is to promote
and achieve research commercialization targets.32 Another study found
that commercialization activities (chie y patenting) by members of the
Stem Cell Network impact negatively on their collaborative behaviour
(speci cally, co-authorship), which is, arguably, an incidental outcome of
the Network’s commercialization-driven research approach and mandate.33
Similarly, a study of technology commercialization via licensing contracts
between US universities and the life sciences industry found evidence of
the so-called “anticommons” e ect;34 speci cally, that exclusive licensing
of patented technologies to single  rms had a “dampening e ect” on
“innovation di usion” by reducing researchers’ propensity to publish or
collaborate with others.35 e pressure to commercialize has also been
linked to secretive behaviour among academic scientists and with creating
disincentives to information sharing,36 and with having undesirable
32. Tania M Bubela & Timothy Caul eld, “Role and Reality: Technology
Transfer at Canadian Universities” (2010) 28:9 Trends in Biotechnology
33. Bubela et al, “Commercialization and Collaboration”, supra note 11.
34. Michael A Heller & Rebecca S Eisenberg, “Can Patents Deter Innovation?
e Anticommons in Biomedical Research” (1998) 280:5364 Science
35. Joshua B Powers & Eric G Campbell, “Technology Commercialization
E ects on the Conduct of Research in Higher Education” (2011) 52:3
Research in Higher Education 245.
36. Wei Hong & John P Walsh, “For Money or Glory? Commercialization,
Competition, and Secrecy in the Entrepreneurial University” (2009) 50:1
e Sociological Quarterly 145.
(2015) 1 CJCCL
e ects on the quantity and quality of research outputs.37
Regarding community reaction, a number of published studies have
shed some light on the views and perspectives of the scienti c research
community on the push to commercialize research.38 A recent nation-
wide study of US biotechnology scientists found a “strong positive
association” between market-driven views and values and the tendency
to pursue applied research programs, and that this association directly
a ects industry funding, the proprietary nature of research outputs, and
the degree of focus on basic research programs.39 Similarly, surveys of
Canadian genomics and stem cell researchers reveal that while views
regarding commercialization and patenting pressure are sharply divided
between supportive and critical, such pressures are correlated with
an increased tendency to engage in data withholding practices and
publication delays.40
A recent informal sampling of the views of members of the Canadian
Stem Cell Network regarding commercialization pressure – conducted
by our research team for the primary purpose of informing proposed
semi-structured interviews – adds some colour to the existing evidence.41
e Network is one of Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence
(NCEs), a funding initiative established in 1989 by Canada’s three major
research funding agencies (CIHR; the National Sciences and Engineering
Research Council, which funds research in the natural sciences
and engineering; and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research
Council, which funds research in the social sciences and humanities) in
collaboration with Health Canada and Industry Canada.42 NCEs unite
37. Hottenrott &  orwarth, supra note 14.
38. Glenna et al, supra note 14; Caul eld et al, “Patents”, supra note 17;
Murdoch & Caul eld, supra note 17; Joly et al, supra note 17; Tartari &
Breschi, supra note 17.
39. Glenna et al, supra note 14.
40. Caul eld et al, “Patents”, supra note 17; Murdoch & Caul eld, supra note
41. Ubaka Ogbogu, Amir Reshef & Timothy Caul eld, “Under Pressure?
Stem Cell Research and the Commercialization Imperative” (Poster
presentation delivered at the Canadian Stem Cell Network Till and
McCulloch Meetings, Ban Springs Hotel, Ban , 23-25 October 2013)
42. Ogbogu, supra note 8; Donald Fisher, Janet Atkinson-Grosjean & Dawn
Ogbogu & Caul eld, Science Powers Commerce
Canada’s leading researchers in a  eld of common interest, with the
aim and mandate to “commercialize and apply … homegrown research
breakthroughs, increase private-sector R&D, and train highly quali ed
people.”43 SCN is one of the program’s success stories, and has received
over $82m since it was created in 2001.  e Network’s primary mandate
is to “be a catalyst for enabling translation of stem cell research into
clinical applications, commercial products or public policy.44
We learned that many in the community are wary of current
commercialization trends and are concerned about its e ects on the
scienti c research environment. Speci cally, most members reported
that they face considerable pressure to commercialize and/or translate
their research in the near term and that it would be more di cult to
secure research funding without proposing a commercialization and/or
translation plan.  ey identi ed main sources of pressure to commercialize
as including granting agencies, patient/disease advocacy groups, their
universities, and the government. Members expressed concern that
commercialization trends will adversely a ect research funding and
opportunities for pursuing basic research, and that public trust in research
will be compromised if the promised bene ts of commercialization do
not materialize in the near term or at all.  ey felt that commercialization
and/or research translation targets were more likely to materialize in the
longer rather than short term, and that the most important outcome they
expect from their research are scholarly publications.  ese observations,
which we caution are neither representative of the views of this community
nor intended to serve as robust evidence of such views, do suggest the
possibility that research communities primed for commercialization may
hold an unfavourable or unenthusiastic view of their commercialization
mandate, and may perceive this mandate to be associated with undesirable
House, “Changes in Academy/Industry/State Relations in Canada:  e
Creation and Development of the Networks of Centres of Excellence”
(2001) 39:3 Minerva 299.
43. Networks of Centres of Excellence, “About the Networks of Centres of
Excellence” (17 October 2013), online: Networks of Centres of Excellence
44. Networks of Centres of Excellence, “Stem Cell Network – SCN” (4 April
2013), online: Networks of Centres of Excellence ce.>.
(2015) 1 CJCCL
social and research-related costs, such as loss of public trust in research
and loss of opportunities for research funding and basic research.  ey
also prompt questions about whether scientists’ expectations are aligned
with policies urging aggressive commercialization of the research.
IV. Conclusion
Our analysis illustrates the degree to which the commercialization
imperative has become near universal.  ere is almost no place within
the Canadian research-funding environment that is not touched by
the commercialization ethos. And there is, at least within the policy
documents themselves, very little substantive justi cation for this shift.
Indeed, its value is presented as axiomatic and universally accepted –
which, given the recent protests in Canada by researchers, is clearly not
the case. More worrisome, at least from the perspective of transparent
policymaking, there is virtually no explicit mention of the potential costs
and harms associated with the push to commercialize. Few would argue
that there are not bene ts to the commercialization of research or with
links to industry. But research tells us there are trade-o s, including a
loss of public trust, decreased collaborative behaviour and, possibly, the
premature implementation of technologies.
Given these downsides, one would hope that there would be explicit
reference to evidence regarding the purported social bene ts of this
trend, but this too, as noted, is missing. Regardless of how one views such
ambitious and unsubstantiated promotion of research commercialization,
it should prompt serious questions about whether scientists and the
scienti c research infrastructure can presently deliver the promised
bene ts, and whether achieving such bene ts is justi ed in light of the
possible social costs of the trend.  at said, interesting questions remain,
including whether this pressure actually changes researcher behaviour
and the direction of research. Perceptions and fears aside, scientists may
simply adapt to the new environment in nimble fashion, and realign
their research agendas accordingly.
Ogbogu & Caul eld, Science Powers Commerce
Table A: Examples of Commercialization Language in Legislation
(continued on next page)
Source Reference
Canadian Institutes “ e objective of the CIHR is to excel … in the
of Health Research creation of new knowledge and its translation into
Act improved health for Canadians, more e ective
health services and products … by … facilitating
the commercialization of health research in Canada
and promoting economic development through
health research in Canada”45
National Research “Council may … undertake, assist or promote
Council Act scienti c and industrial research, including …
researches with the object of improving the technical
processes and methods used in the industries
of Canada, and of discovering processes and
methods that may promote the expansion of existing
or the development of new industries”46
Alberta Research “ e purpose of this Act is to promote and provide
and Innovation Act for the strategic and e ective use of funding and
other resources to meet the research and innovation
priorities of the Government, including fostering
the development and growth of new and existing
New Brunswick “Council shall advise and make recommendations
Research and to the Executive Council on all aspects of research
Innovation Council and innovation and on the development and
Act commercialization of technology in order to
advance these activities in New Brunswick and to
foster … increased collaboration between
government and the business, industry, post
secondary education and research communities”48
Innovation “ e objects of the Corporation are to … mobilize
Corporation Act the necessary resources, nationally and
(Nova Scotia) internationally, to allow for technological
development and commercialization in priority
technology areas de ned by the Corporation”49
45. Supra note 20, s 4.
46. Supra note 21, s 5(c).
47. Supra note 21, s 2.
48. Supra note 21, s 7.
49. Supra note 21, s 5(a).
(2015) 1 CJCCL
Economic Innovation “ e objects of the council are to foster economic
and Technology development and to support economic restructuring
Council Act through innovation and the development and
(Manitoba) commercialization of technology so as to enable
Manitoba to compete e ectively in a global market
List A: Examples of Commercialization Requirements in Funding
Opportunities (continued on next page)
• CIHR Open Operating Grant, 2013-2014: Grants are expected to
“[c]ontribute to commercialization/ knowledge translation”51
Alberta Innovates – Alberta/P zer Translational Research Fund Opportunity
(June 2013): “ e funding opportunity will focus on the development and
commercialization of innovations in health that support the interests and
priorities of Alberta and P zer and serve as a catalyst for innovative research
in Alberta”52
Alberta Innovates – Knowledge-to-Action Grant (2013): “Grant
opportunity is intended to support the uptake of research evidence into
health policy, practice and commercial development of products53
Ontario Research Fund – Early Researcher Awards Program Guidelines
(March 2013): Applications must demonstrate “potential for strategic value
for Ontario based on … economic bene ts [and] entrepreneurial focus”54
Innovation PEI – Pilot and Discovery Fund Program Guidelines (2013):
Proposed project must “[d]evelop a product or service that demonstrates
a high level of innovation, commercial viability, and market potential …
[and] [c]reate a positive economic impact for the Province (jobs, economic
spin-o s, etc.)”55
50. e Economic Innovation and Technology Council Act, CCSM c E7, s 3.
51. Canadian Institutes of Health Research, “CIHR Open Operating Grant”
(19 June 2013), online: ResearchNet .researchnet-recherch
52. Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions, “Alberta/Pfzer Translational
Research Fund Opportunity” (June 2013), online: Alberta Innovates
– Health Solutions
partnered-translational-fund/p zer/docs/AB-P zer-Program-Guide%20
53. Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions, “AIHS Knowledge-to-Action
Grant” (2013), online: Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions>.
54. Ontario Research Fund, “Early Researcher Awards Program Guidelines”
(March 2013), online:
55. Innovation PEI, “Pilot and Discovery Fund: Program Guidelines” (2013),
Ogbogu & Caul eld, Science Powers Commerce
Ontario Genomics Institute – Pre-Commercialization Business
Development Fund (2013): “[U]nique and useful investment fund that
is helping to enable the economic impact of outcomes of genomics and
proteomics research projects and technology development. Speci cally, it
aims to provide early-stage funding as researchers move towards commercial
applications and to speed up transfer of products from lab to marketplace”56
CIHR Operating Grant – Industry-Partnered Collaborative Research (Fall
2013): Objective of funding opportunity includes to “promote economic
development through health research in Canada” and “encourage and
facilitate mutually bene cial university-industry collaborations in health
Canadian Foundation for Innovation – 2012 Leading Edge and New
Initiatives Funds Competition: “ e research or technology development
enabled by CFI funding creates the necessary conditions for sustainable,
long-term economic growth, including the creation of spin-o ventures and
the commercialization of discoveries. It supports improvements to society,
quality of life, health, the environment, and public policy”58
List B: Examples of Commercialization Language in University
Documents (continued on next page)
University of Toronto (2013): “U of T is a leading university in Canada for
commercialization and entrepreneurship and is a global leader in turning
ideas and innovations into products, services, companies and jobs.”59
University of Alberta (2013): “UAlberta bene ts society by transferring
research, knowledge and discoveries out of the institution and into the
community. One way to ensure UAlberta research solutions have the greatest
online: Innovation PEI
56. Ontario Genomics Institute, “Pre-commercialization Business
Development Fund” (2013), online: Ontario Genomics Institute
57. Canadian Institutes of Health Research, “Operating Grant: Industry-Part
nered Collaborative Research” (Fall 2013), online: ResearchNet
58. Canada Foundation for Innovation, “2012 Leading Edge and New
Initiatives Funds Competition” (September 2011), online: Canada
Foundation for Innovation les/
59. University of Toronto Research and Innovation, “Commercialization at
U of T” (2013), online: University of Toronto>.
(2015) 1 CJCCL
reach and impact on both society and the economy is commercialization.”60
University of Alberta (2013): “ e University actively transfers new
knowledge and creative works to Alberta, Canada and the world for
community bene t, including commercial development of intellectual
property when appropriate and feasible”61
University of British Columbia: “For transformational research discoveries
with the potential to generate signi cant impacts, whether  nancial,
economic, or societal, the traditional technology transfer approach of IP-
protection, development and commercialization will frequently remain
McGill University (2013): “ e commercialization of research outcomes
is an important objective not just of researchers, but of most public and
private funding programs as well. It can also be very rewarding, with
potential impact on society, the economy and the environment at large”63
University of Saskatchewan (2011): “We want to ensure that the relationships
created through the commercialization of a technology continue to add
value for all partners; leading to ongoing research projects for the inventor
and the industry partner and to the commercialization of complementary
Queen’s University (2013): “ e role of Innovation Park is to foster
interaction among the participants in the research and innovation system
and thus stimulate commercialization and economic development in the
South Eastern Ontario region.”65
University of Calgary (1994): “ e nature and scope of University scholarly
activity is such that industrially useful and/or commercially valuable
60. University of Alberta Research, “Commercialization” (2013),
online: University of Alberta
61. University of Alberta Board of Governors, “Mandate and Roles
Document” (2013), online: University of Alberta .
62. University of British Columbia University-Industry Liaison O ce,
“Technology Transfer/Commercialization”, online: University of British
63. McGill Research and International Relations, “Managing Your Intellectual
Property” (2013), online: McGill
64. University of Saskatchewan, “Industry Liaison – Who Are We?” (2013),
online: University of Saskatchewan
65. Queen’s University, “Innovation Park – Who We Are”, online: Queen’s
Ogbogu & Caul eld, Science Powers Commerce
Intellectual Property is sometimes the result. Indeed, there is a societal
expectation that University scholarly activities will include activities which,
applied, lead to useful outcomes.”66
Table B: Examples of Commercialization Language in Political/
Institutional Commentary (continued on next two pages)
Source Reference
National Research “We are committed to being a strong partner for
Council (2013) innovation, and focused on achieving the concrete
outcomes that will contribute to a stronger and
more prosperous Canada. We will measure our
success by the success of our clients.”67
Minister of State “Capitalizing on the momentum generated by …
Gary Goodyear investments [in research], we will continue to
(Industry Canada improve commercialization performance by
2013) transforming research outcomes into economic
bene ts for Canadians”68
Canadian Institutes “ rough its commercialization and innovation
of Health Research strategy, CIHR will continue to catalyze
(2009) collaborations between industry and the research
community to translate health research into
improved health products, technologies, tools and
Networks of Centres “ e goal of the NCE Program is to mobilize
of Excellence (2011) Canada’s research talent in the academic, private,
public, and not-for-pro t sectors and apply it to the
task of developing the economy and improving the
quality of life of Canadians.”70
66. University of Calgary, “Intellectual Property Policy” (2014), online:
University of Calgary .ca/policies/ les/policies/
67. National Research Council Canada, supra note 18.
68. Industry Canada, News Release, “Minister of State Goodyear Promotes
Commercialization of Canadian Research at International Forum” (19
March 2013) online: Government of Canada>.
69. Canadian Institutes of Health Research, “Health Research Roadmap:
Creating Innovative Research for Better Health and Health Care”,
online: Canadian Institutes of Health Research>.
70. Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada, “Program Guide” (2011),
(2015) 1 CJCCL
Centres of Excellence “ e innovative … program bridges the challenging
for Commercialization gap between innovation and commercialization.
and Research Program e program matches clusters of research expertise
(2013) with the business community to share the knowledge
and resources that bring innovations to market
Centre for “CCRM represents a tremendous opportunity for
Commercialization Canadians to lead RM commercialization …
of Regenerative CCRM engages industry partners, making CCRM
Medicine (2011) a global hub of RM commercialization and
attracting investment to Ontario, leading to new
jobs and economic growth.”72
Government of “Canada must translate knowledge into commercial
Canada (2007); applications that generate wealth for Canadians and
support the quality of life we all want in order to
create an Entrepreneurial Advantage.”73
2009 “Canada’s ability to gain a competitive advantage in
the modern economy increasingly depends on our
ability to translate knowledge and ideas into
commercial products.”74
Innovate Nova “ e Innovate Nova Scotia policy framework has
Scotia (2009) been developed to stimulate awareness of and
discussion on the importance of maximizing the
impact of innovation to enhance economic growth
and employment in this province.”75
online: Networks of Centres of Excellence
71. Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada, “Centres of Excellence for
Commercialization and Research Program” (2013), online: Networks of
Centres of Excellence ograms-Programmes/
72. Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, “Mission
(2011), online: CCRM .
73. Industry Canada, “Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s
Advantage” (2007), online: Industry Canada
74. Industry Canada, “Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s
Advantage: Progress Report” (2009) online: Industry Canada$ le/
STProgressReport2009.pdf> at 13 [emphasis added].
75. Nova Scotia Economic Development, “Innovate Nova Scotia: An
Innovation Policy for the Nova Scotia Economy”, online: Nova
Scotia vascotia/docs/
Ogbogu & Caul eld, Science Powers Commerce
Genome Canada “Genome Canada is a catalyst for developing and
(2013) applying genomic sciences that create economic
wealth and social bene t for Canadians. We work in
partnership to invest in and manage large-scale
research and translate discoveries into commercial
British Columbia “Research and innovation creates and activates the
Research and knowledge that British Columbia needs to compete
Innovation Strategy in the global economy. It leads to new, exciting
products and processes that help British Columbia
prosper and raise our standard of living. It fosters
social and economic development, creates jobs and
supports our e orts to address climate change and
clean energy.77
MaRS Innovation “MaRS Innovation collaborates with its 16 Toronto
“How We Work -based member institutions … to commercialize
market-disruptive intellectual property … Our
mandate includes seeking opportunities to increase
the social, health and economic bene ts of our
activities to Canadians and others around the
Vision and Mission “ To monetize the research assets found within its
member institutions, thereby converting great science
into commercially viable products and services”79
76. Genome Canada, “About Genome Canada”, online: Genome Canada
77. British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education and Ministry
Responsible for Research and Technology, “Local Excellence – Global
Impact: BC Research and Innovation Strategy”, online: Ministry of
Advanced Education
78. MaRS Innovation, “How We Work”, online: MaRS>.
79. MaRS Innovation, “Vision and Mission”, online: MaRS> [emphasis added].

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT