With the adoption of an added “research sponsorship option” at Iowa State and the University of Iowa, companies partnering with those universities will now have the option at the beginning of their partnership to own the rights to inventions or innovations developed as well as the right to sublicense them in exchange for paying “the full cost of research” and a $15,000 fee assessed at the beginning of the relationship between the university and a partnering corporation.

This option contrasts with past relationships, in which “deals were negotiated only after research yielded results,” according to the Des Moines Register. Some of the drawbacks of the older method included uncertainty for the businesses partnering with Iowa State and the University of Iowa.

Naturally, leaders at Iowa State and the University of Iowa support the additional option. “We want to move our research into the market as quickly as possible. We want to partner with Iowa companies, so they can benefit from the technologies discovered at the University of Iowa and help stimulate economic activity,” said Sally Mason, president of the University of Iowa.

ISU President Steven Leath said, “We’ve created flexible solutions in Iowa State’s sponsored funding agreements that better meet the needs of our industry partners while also helping to rapidly move our research discoveries to the marketplace.”

These changes, it seems, would crystallize Iowa State’s existence as the research and development division of a major corporation. Many universities fulfill this role, such as technical institutes and certain public universities. But as a land-grant college, Iowa State’s role in economic development and economic partnerships is more complicated than doing a corporation’s research for a pittance.

Rep. Justin S. Morrill wrote the Land-Grant Colleges (or Morrill) Act “for the benefit of agriculture and the mechanic arts.” As he said in his speech supporting his bill in 1862, the land-grant colleges would be “accessible to all, but especially the sons of toil,” and would teach “all the needful science for the practical avocations of life,” without ignoring “the higher graces of classical studies nor … military drill.”

Additionally, the land-grant colleges would be a place “where agriculture, the foundation of all present and future prosperity, may look for troops of earnest friends.”

To the extent that Morrill wanted to develop the United States’ economy through the land-grant colleges, development would occur as the colleges’ students become equipped with the technical and scientific know-how to address the shortcomings of older methods.

Iowa State’s motto is “Science with practice.” President James H. Hilton, however, stated Iowa State’s motto differently. As quoted in Professor Earle D. Ross’s book “The Land-Grant Idea at Iowa State College,” Hilton stated Iowa State’s motto thus: “Science with Practice for the Service of Mankind.”

Science is the goal, practice is the means and the service of mankind is the standard by which we measure our success. Without the latter, we allow ourselves to serve the established elements of industry rather than enabling people of smaller means to achieve greater economic independence — which was the whole object of the land-grant colleges that every potential administrator at Iowa State touts and professes to love during his or her interviews.

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