The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 35, Issue 6, pp 637–650 | Cite as

Informal university technology transfer: a comparison between the United States and Germany

  • Christoph GrimpeEmail author
  • Heide Fier


Existing literature has confined university technology transfer almost exclusively to formal mechanisms, like patents, licenses or royalty agreements. Relatively little is known about informal technology transfer that is based upon interactions between university scientists and industry personnel. Moreover, most studies are limited to the United States, where the Bayh-Dole Act has shaped the institutional environment since 1980. In this paper, we provide a comparative study between the United States and Germany where the equivalent of the Bayh-Dole Act has come into force only in 2002. Based on a sample of more than 800 university scientists, our results show similar relationships for the United States and Germany. Faculty quality which is however based on patent applications rather than publications serves as a major predictor for informal technology transfer activities. Hence, unless universities change their incentives (e.g., patenting as one criterion for promotion and tenure) knowledge will continue to flow out the backdoor.


Informal university technology transfer Cross-country comparison 

JEL Classification

J61 O33 



We thank Albert N. Link, Donald S. Siegel, the participants at the 2007 Technology Transfer Society Conference in Palm Desert, and Christian Rammer for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ZEW Centre for European Economic ResearchMannheimGermany
  2. 2.Katholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  3. 3.University of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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