The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 561–592 | Cite as

Determinants of knowledge transfer: evidence from Canadian university researchers in natural sciences and engineering

  • Réjean Landry
  • Nabil Amara
  • Mathieu Ouimet


This paper addresses three questions: First, what is the extent of research transfer in natural sciences and engineering among Canadian university researchers? Second, are there differences between various disciplines with regard to the extent of this transfer? And third, what are the determinants of research transfer? To answer these questions, the paper begins by differentiating between technology transfer and knowledge transfer. It then identifies the individual researcher as the unit of analysis of this study and introduces a conceptual framework derived from the resource-based approach of firms. The paper then reviews the literature on each of the factors included in the conceptual framework, beginning with the dependent variable, knowledge transfer. The conceptual framework includes four categories of resources and one category of research attributes that are likely to influence knowledge transfer. Based on a survey of 1,554 researchers funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), comparisons of means of research transfer across research fields were conducted. Multivariate regression analyses were used to identify the determinants of research transfer by research field. The results of these analyses indicate that researchers transferred knowledge much more actively when no commercialization was involved than when there was commercialization of protected intellectual property. This paper thus adds to the relatively scarce evidence about knowledge transfer by examining knowledge transfer from a broader perspective than strict commercialization. The findings of this paper are also interesting for other reasons. We obtained statistical evidence indicating that researchers in certain research fields were much more active in knowledge transfer than those in other fields, thereby pointing to differences in levels of knowledge activities across research fields. Furthermore, we obtained evidence showing that only two determinants explained knowledge transfer in all the six research fields considered in this study, namely, focus of research projects on users’ needs, and linkages between researchers and research users. Statistical evidence obtained indicates that the other determinants that influence knowledge transfer vary from one research field to another, thus suggesting that different policies would be required to increase knowledge transfer in different research fields. The last part of the paper outlines the implications of the regression results for theory building, public policy and future research.


Knowledge transfer Universities Engineering Natural sciences Research Determinants of transfer Survey data 

JEL Classification

O33 D83 I23 H41 O32 Z13 


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The authors would like to thank the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada as well as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for financial support for this project. The authors are also grateful for comments received from anonymous referees, from the participants at the 2005 DRUID Conference in Copenhagen, from Dominique Foray and participants at the seminar on Knowledge Transfer of the College of Management of Technology of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, and from Elaine Gauthier, Barney Laciak and Susan Morris from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CHSRF/CIHR Chair on Knowledge Transfer and Innovation, Department of Management, Faculty of BusinessUniversité LavalQuebec CityCanada
  2. 2.Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Centre for Health Economics and Policy AnalysisMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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