Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/10/13

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Jim Brick's comments on academic research
From: Alexey Merz <>
Date: Tue, 13 Oct 1998 11:56:44 +0100

Jim Brick:
>Time marches on. Technology marches on. Only people from academia, or those
>with their heads buried in the sand, don't understand what is required to
>sustain a modern, hi-tech, public company, competing on the world market.

Apparently there are a great many people in the Valley with their 
heads buried in the sand. Remember the Web IPO bubble? That warn't 
driven by academia, friend. Stupidity and ignorance are *not* the
exclusive province of academia. I've known enough people in both
academia and business to know that stupidity and brilliance flourish
in both arenas. That is because both are human endeavors. And I've known
a number of folks who did rather well moving from an academic setting
into the private sector.

>And working as a computer design consultant for the past 18 years, and now
>with a state of the art digital camera electronics company, I can say that
>the most un-informed lot of people we, here in Silicon Valley, have to deal
>with, are first the professors at the local universities (Stanford and UC
>Santa Cruz) and second, the students that these professors produce. And
>this is *not* a broad sweeping statement. The fact is that the most
>uninformed (they typically are one to two years behind the real technology)
>people are from the universities. We just hired two grad students here. One
>an imaging expert and the other a Verilog expert. They are both very good
>at what they know, but are certainly lacking experience and indeed are
>behind currently technology. But they are quick learners, we like their
>style, they have team enthusiasm, they are bright, so we gave them a
>chance. But they were smart enough to, while attending school, to do some
>outside work in their field ,so they at least were somewhat tuned into the
>real world.

>So I was extrapolating that to other disciplines. And I'm sure it holds
>true. Obviously not a blanket statement.

Obviously not. But then, if it's obvious, you wouldn't go
out of your way to so, would you?

Tell me, how it is that so many of the fundamental innovations
in computing occurred in academic or quasi-academic (i.e., PARC) 
settings? GUIs, TCP-IP, the web, Ethernet, one could go on and on. 

And of course academia is *still* the main driver in much of biological 
research. Not the exclusive driver, to be sure. But the major one. Indeed,
many of the most sucessful biotech startups are initiated through the 
licensing of technologies developed in academia. Perusal of The Red 
Herring's biotech issue or an average issue of Biotech/Bioengineering 
News, might make this clear. Your extrapolation does *not* necessarily
hold. In some fields it does, and in others it does not.

The bottom line: academic/corporate partnerships are very common, and
don't occur though the altruism of the corporate partners. They occur
because innovation *does* occur in academia.

And there are plenty of us in academia who would have told Leica that
the M6 TTL is a dumb idea, or that the R8 really *ought* to have a 
motor drive by now... if we'd been asked.
Alexey Merz | URL: | email:
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