Two of today’s most promising new technologies, graphene and stem cell therapies, were a result of discovery-led research projects at government-funded laboratories. But now, says John Fisher, director of the University of Leeds’ Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, we must let commerce carry these discoveries into the next stage of innovation. “Teams of scientists and engineers need to define challenges and be intent on making a commercial success out of this discovery,” he said. “The applications will be ‘out there’ but that’s exactly where they will stay without properly directed investment.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Fisher calls commercially driven innovation ‘challenge-led’, meaning, in the case of regenerative medicine, “identifying problems in doctors’ practices, hospitals and operating theatres, then designing innovative, biocompatible medical devices.” He laments the bad name commercialization receives in academic circles and points out that the semiconductor studies completed in the 1960s would not have resulted in today’s information revolution were it not for commercial interests further developing the scientists’ discoveries. Commerce drives markets but, says Fisher, it can also drive science itself.