The Search for Money

Eggheads and Entrepreneurs - Its wizards keep the emphasis on how to market the bounty of knowledge," crows a Business Week title. "The Heart of Silicon Valley: Why Stanford - the nexus of capital, high technology, and brainpower - is the intellectual incubator of the digital age," echoes Fortune. Wouldn't you expect a natural synergy between such a school and industry?

Staccato’s team: Tim Stilson, Clark Bohmont, Joe Koepnick,
Pat Scandalis and Scott Van Duyne (left to right)Staccato’s team: Tim Stilson, Clark Bohmont, Joe Koepnick, Pat Scandalis and Scott Van Duyne (left to right)

Well, yes - and no. Scratch a little deeper and you find that Stanford has long been shunned by corporations that complain it is generally too bureaucratic, rigid and greedy in negotiations. Stanford's matchmakers find that they often must fight an institutional resistance to relationships that they say should be natural.

"We're like your typical big company," says Ku. "There are certain rules and regulations that the university wants to follow. So when an unusual situation comes up, that's where all the bottleneck happens. It often happens with industry because they want something that's not in the mainstream. Then we're not sure who makes the decision, how to handle it, what are the ramifications."

While this appears benign, the results can cause damage, and not just in the area of product patents. Companies would love to work with Stanford talent in developing new medical products and technology based on joint research. Yet, in 1995 a faculty committee issued a scathing report on the barriers between the medical school and industry - a situation marked most by "a growing mutual distrust" and "perceived differences in motives and mission that may not be based in fact."

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