The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 316–339 | Cite as

Why do academics engage with industry? The entrepreneurial university and individual motivations

  • Pablo D’Este
  • Markus PerkmannEmail author


The debate on the entrepreneurial university has raised questions about what motivates academic scientists to engage with industry. This paper provides evidence based on survey data for a large sample of UK investigators in the physical and engineering sciences. The results suggest that most academics engage with industry to further their research rather than to commercialize their knowledge. However, there are differences in terms of the channels of engagement. Patenting and spin-off company formation are motivated exclusively by commercialization whilst joint research, contract research and consulting are strongly informed by research-related motives. We conclude that policy should refrain from overly focusing on monetary incentives for industry engagement and consider a broader range of incentives for promoting interaction between academia and industry.


University-industry relations Joint research Collaborative research Commercialization Entrepreneurial university Motivation 

JEL Classification

I23 O32 



We thank Virginia Acha, Thomas Astebro, Charles Baden-Fuller, Kate Bishop, Isabel Bodas de Araújo Freitas, Maryann Feldman, Roberto Fontana, Patrick Llerena, Ammon Salter, Naohiro Shichijo, Valentina Tartari, Finn Valentin, Jaider Vega-Jurado, John Walsh, Kathryn Walsh for helpful comments. The usual disclaimer applies. Previous versions of the paper were presented at the Triple Helix Conference (16–18 May 2007, Singapore), the AIM workshop ‘Exploring & Mapping University-Industry Relationships’ (21 May 2007, London) and the DIME plenary session at the DRUID Summer Conference (17–19 June 2009, Copenhagen). The authors acknowledge support from the Innovation and Productivity Grand Challenge (IPGC), an initiative of the Advanced Institute of Management Research (AIM) funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/C534239/1). Markus Perkmann acknowledges funding from the Economic and Social Research Council via an AIM Practices Fellowship (RES-331-27-0063).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INGENIO, CSIC-UPVSpanish Council for Scientific Research, Polytechnic University of ValenciaValenciaSpain
  2. 2.Business SchoolImperial College LondonLondonUK

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