Your Editorial about technology-transfer offices, “More than the money” (Nature 440, 845–846; 200610.1038/440845b), is, in my opinion, dangerous and wrong.
It is dangerous because, at a time when governments are investing in science with the reasonable hope that new knowledge can lead to economic advantage, it is ammunition for critics to suggest otherwise.
It is wrong both in principle and in practice. The chemistry department at Oxford has contributed some £80 million (US$150 million) to the central university over the past ten years. Actual realized gains from the departmental spin-offs come to more than £40 million, with about £20 million of unrealized gains in quoted companies and a further batch of holdings in private companies. Of these, one has raised several millions in a pre-flotation round, another has a multimillion-pound contract with a major pharmaceutical company, and a third has a huge European Union grant. This has been achieved without any pressure on academics to modify their research or even to push people into commercialization.
Many technology-transfer offices are frankly not very good. They should not be allowed to pretend that bringing money in to their universities is not one of their major roles.