Date of Award

Spring 5-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Capital Development


Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development

Committee Chair

Chad Miller

Committee Chair Department

Economic and Workforce Development

Committee Member 2

Cynthia Gaudet

Committee Member 2 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 3

Patricia Phillips

Committee Member 3 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 4

Dale Lunsford

Committee Member 4 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 5

Brian Richard

Committee Member 5 Department

Human Capital Development


At least as far back as the enactment of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 there has been an ongoing desire on the part of politicians, policy-makers and the public in the U.S., to obtain greater economic returns on the federal investment in publicly funded university research. Today among policy-makers there is an apparent belief that a capital shortage in the mid-stages of technological development is the rate-limiting factor, preventing the maximum flow of university inventive knowledge from entering the marketplace. The consequence is a Valley of Death demise for the vast majority of university inventions. In order to mitigate the problem, changes to federal granting policies are placing increased emphasis on funding more applied and translational research than basic fundamental science. Given the foregoing direction of policy, the study set out to confirm the current understanding of the Valley of Death on the part of policy-makers and relate this understanding to the historical evidence.

Consistent with present-day political pronouncements, the study findings verify an overwhelming belief that a shortfall of applied research funding is the root cause of the Valley of Death. Policy-makers believe this shortfall constrains the development of basic research into commercializable products. However, the study also found that this perception is inconsistent with the empirical evidence. The study reveals a gap between these sectors but the gap is independent of the stage of technological development. A funding difference extends the entire length of the research and innovation spectrum, suggesting other factors are responsible for the adoption of university inventions, bringing into question the direction and likely efficacy of current policy initiatives.

The findings lend credence to the less cited cause of the Valley of Death, namely a Darwinian Sea of survival of the economically fittest technologies (Auerswald & Branscomb, 2003). The actual stage of development of a university invention will determine the extent of investment funding necessary for its continued development, but economic factors will determine if further investment in its development is warranted. A death does exist for many inventions, but it is the result of natural market causes and not a funding shortfall, per se.