From Crowdfunding To Open Access, Startups Are Experimenting With Academic Research

Danny Crichton | TechCrunch | March 3, 2014

These days may well be the next golden age for universities, and startups are leading the way. For institutions that can feel much like their counterparts from a thousand years ago, universities have witnessed breathtaking change in just a handful of years.

The development of Massive Open Online Courses by startups like Udacity, Coursera, and others have forced many staid university administrators to consider how technology can transform higher education, particularly in the dissemination of educational content. And while the hype around these startups may have subsided, the change in mindset they have engendered means that their influence will continue well into the future.

Yet, for all of the splashy accounts on the rise of these new teaching startups, one function of the university has consistently been missed – their research programs. Clark Kerr, the first chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, once coined the term “multiversity” to describe the multiple parallel missions of universities, which includes both teaching and developing the frontiers of human knowledge. Research defines a university’s status, setting the prestige and influence of the institution far beyond what a lecture in a classroom can hope to accomplish. Research is also big business – at large universities like Stanford, sponsored research often exceeds revenues from tuition.