Essay in: Testing to Failure: Design and Research in MIT’s Department of Architecture, edited by Sarah M. Hirschman and Arindam Dutta, (Cambridge, MA: SA+P Press, 2011). Theodossis Issaias and Todd Satter.
Following the Second World War, the phenomenon of the military-industrial complex in which the relationship between the defense industry and financial interests became increasingly pronounced, overtly and surreptitiously dictated economic and geo-political discourse. Similar dynamics inspired new relations between academic institutions and the military, spawning the military-academic-industrial complex. Economic incentives and the potential to turn university research into profit-making endeavors have expanded exponentially throughout the past few decades, during which financial and other interests took an unprecedented influence over university research. A series of guidelines and laws further institutionalized these dynamics, conflating, confusing and mixing government, corporate and academic interests, augmenting the potential for abuse.
Federal funding has failed to keep up with the increasing amounts of capital needed to finance scientific research. Federal research funding has been sharply curtailed even in face of the most recent global energy crisis, a development in stark contrast to that of the 1970s, when the energy crisis spawned a large increase in spending. As the government diverts funds to other sectors or universities divert funds to other departments, laboratories have little choice but to turn to private investors. Universities are also compelled to explore and develop other money-making opportunities, such as property management and other financial ventures aimed at creating, developing and supporting research clusters or Technopolises, which extend the physical and cultural reach of universities, their research and influence. Technopolises and new research strategies work within, rather than outside of, geo-political and corporate structures, becoming part of a larger discourse and folding in entities outside of the traditional university.