• Article

Social and economic impact of the commercialization of the Argus II artificial retina in the United States


Walsh, A., Salem, M. E., Oliver, Z., & Clark-Sutton, K. (2017). Social and economic impact of the commercialization of the Argus II artificial retina in the United States. Journal of Technology Transfer. DOI: 10.1007/s10961-017-9610-z


Each year, the United States invests about $45 billion in research conducted by
federal researchers within federal laboratories. These efforts generate extensive social benefits when results are transferred to the private sector. It is important that we effectively quantify the economic and societal impact of federal technology transfer activities to inform taxpayers and policymakers about the value of public investments in this form of research. The Argus II device, an artificial retina commercialized in the United States by Second Sight in 2013, provides a rich example of how private sector innovation can be enhanced by research collaborations with federal labs and academia. Over the 25-year journey from idea to product, Second Sight carried out research and development collaborations with six Department of Energy national laboratories and seven universities. The case of Argus II also offers valuable insight into (1) how private industry, academia, and government can work together to bring
socially beneficial innovations to fruition and (2) the tradeoffs inherent in these public–private collaborations. In this paper, we use a Markov model to estimate the realized and potential future social benefits associated with Argus II. We provide an interactive tool that can be used to replicate our findings and modify assumptions using updated patient information as it becomes available. We also provide insight into the aspects of federal involvement surrounding the development of Argus II that contributed to its successful commercialization and discuss other spillover benefits from these public–private collaborations.