The Economist has an article on Microsoft's former chief technology officer, Nathan Myhrvold, and his idea to solves what he sees as a lack of inventiveness in America:
The root of the problem, as he sees it, is the current reliance on a "charity model" of funding research—in particular, universities' dependence on government grants. The solution, he argues in his Harvard Business Review article, "The Big Idea: Funding Eureka", would be a world in which inventors are encouraged to invent by the presence of investment funds that compete to buy their intellectual property and sell it on—perhaps bundled with other patents—to buyers who know how to put it to good use....he foresees it being dominated by fund-management firms, such as his own Intellectual Ventures, collectively constituting a new alternative asset class that he calls "invention capital".
Intellectual Ventures has 650 employees, not all of them patent attorneys, and as well as buying patents it develops ideas in-house. In 2009 it applied for about 450 patents for its own inventions—more than Boeing, 3M or Toyota—putting it among the world's top 50 patent-filers.
The article from the March 2010 Harvard Business Review is here. It explains: "What we're really trying to do is create a capital market for inventions akin to the venture capital market that supports start-ups and the private equity market that revitalizes inefficient companies. Our goal is to make applied research a profitable activity that attracts vastly more private investment than it does today so that the number of inventions generated soars." Mr. Myhrvold's arguments on why private investment money will get better results than federal money or charitable money are particularly provocative.