The War on Science is a War on Jobs
In early October, HemoSonics, a company in Charlottesville, Virginia which makes blood diagnostic equipment, announced it received three small business research grants from National Institutes of Health and Office of Naval Research. HemoSonics is the kind of company — small, innovative, and based on the home-grown creation of knowledge — that our country depends on to lead the way out of our stalled economy.
Yet, at the very time when research and development are needed to turn our economy around, the radical right-wing is working overtime to stop the process in its tracks. Current attacks on climate change research are being led by the attorney general of Virginia, the very state where HemoSonics and many other other science/technology companies are located. And new legal attacks against research on human embryonic stem cells have created uncertainty over the future of this promising technology, which threatens $200 million in grants and 1,300 jobs.
HemoSonics offers a good example of how scientific knowledge creates, companies, jobs, and wealth. The company was founded in 2004 by three medical and engineering professors at nearby University of Virginia, eager to take their research in biomedical engineering and turn it into products for the marketplace.
In this technology transfer process, as it is called, commercialization specialists identify the discoveries in universities, research institutes, or hospitals, get them patents, and license the technologies to companies seeking to produce marketable goods or services. In many cases, including HemoSonics, the licensees are the very researchers who made the discoveries; it’s often the policy of institutions to give the discoverers first crack at commercializing their findings.
But the real winners are the localities and states where the universities, research institutes, and hospitals reside. According to the Association of University Technology Managers — the schools’ commercialization specialists — research institutions spun off nearly 600 companies in 2009, adding to about the same number of companies in 2008. Thus, in the two years of the worst recession since the 1930s, American researchers created nearly 1,200 new companies, enterprises based on valuable intellectual property that can’t be outsourced and requiring highly skilled talent.Continued on the next page