APS News

Study Shows Importance of Publicly-Funded Science to Industry

The value of publicly-funded basic science to industry is extolled in a March 17, 1997 study performed for NSF by CHI Research, Inc., an international consulting firm. Entitled, "The Increasing Linkage Between U.S. Technology and Public Science," the study examines the connection between U.S. industrial patents and their citation of publicly-funded research papers.

Underlying the study's findings is that public science is a driving force behind high technology and economic growth. The report is based on tracing tens of thousands of references from recent United States patents, issued in 1987-88 and 1993-94, to the scientific research papers they cite.

According to the report, 73% of the papers cited by U.S. industry patents are public science, authored at academic, governmental, and other public institutions worldwide. Across all countries and technologies reviewed, the paper finds a steady increase in science linkage for at least two decades. That linkage is growing fastest in the U.S. References from U.S. patents to U.S.-authored research papers have tripled over a six- year period.

The report finds this linkage of patents to science papers to be very subject-specific, being strongest in biological and medical technologies. It is less pronounced in physics, although physics - along with chemistry, engineering, and biomedicine - is one of the four most heavily-cited scientific categories for 1993-94 patents. For research papers in physics, NSF support is cited most often, followed by the U.S. Navy, the DOE, the U.S. Air Force, DARPA, the U.S. Army, NASA, and the DOD in general.

The report concludes that "public science plays an essential role in supporting U.S. industry, across all the science-linked areas of industry, amongst companies large and small, and is a fundamental pillar of the advance of U.S. technology."

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin