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Korean scholars rank as the most valuable

Students take their College Scholastic Ability Test at a school on November 8, 2012 in Seoul, South Korea.

Look at any new advance in a consumer product, and it likely began with a company’s choice to invest in research and development. Sometimes that R&D is done at universities. Corporations pay academics for their research, which fuels innovation in the marketplace. A new study from the British magazine “Times Higher Education” shows that East Asian scholars are more valuable than their western counterparts.  

The study says that global businesses pay South Korean scholars the most -- on average $100,000 each, with Singapore, Taiwan and China not far behind. The U.S. ranked fourteenth out of 30. Global companies invest an average of just $25,000 per American scholar. 

Times editor Phil Baty says U.S. academic culture is typically more exploratory. American researchers usually test ideas and study concepts without knowing the real world applications. Asian academics are more practical. 

"There is a focus on applied research -- research with a short-term immediate commercial outcome," Baty says. "Businesses putting hard cash into the universities because they want to create new technology that they take to market and make money from."

For example customers might demand new technology advances to their cell phone, and with practical research, companies deliver. But technology analyst Jeff Kagan says it’s not enough.  

"Companies have to wow the customer," Kagan says. "They have to deliver something that the customer didn’t even know they wanted."

Those big picture innovations may be more likely to come from American research methods, which allow for more theoretical exploration.

About the author

Andrea Gardner is a journalism professor and writer in Pasadena, Calif.

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