The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 943–966 | Cite as

Boundary spanning between industry and university: the role of Technology Transfer Centres

  • Anna ComacchioEmail author
  • Sara Bonesso
  • Claudio Pizzi


Technology Transfer Centres (TTCs) have been analyzed in the last few years by focusing on the relationship between a TTC, provider of knowledge-intensive services, and a firm client-receiver. Less attention has been devoted to a more complex relationship which involves in the dyadic provider-receiver tie a third relevant body, University. We provide both a theoretical and an empirical contribution by studying whether TTCs can bond the academic and industrial system and we define the activities that make-up this role such as: scanning and selection of R&D opportunities, bridge building, semantic translation of domain specific knowledge, co-production of new knowledge. The boundary spanning role of TTCs is discussed drawing on different and complementary theoretical perspectives. Moreover, we test research hypotheses on the antecedents of boundary spanning activity from a knowledge-based perspective. We argue that TTC boundary spanners need to leverage on both technical skills and networking competences. Empirical investigation has been carried out with a survey of the TTC population of North East Italy. The research findings highlight the task coordination activities implied by a boundary spanning role in joint R&D projects and show that the endowment of human capital at individual level and a qualified social capital at individual and organizational level are the main determinants.


Boundary spanning Technology Transfer Centres University-industry linkage SMEs Joint R&D projects Human capital 

JEL Classification

J24 L14 L24 O32 O33 



An early version of this paper was presented at the Euram Conference 2008. We are grateful for comments received in this event. The research has been funded by the Regional Council of Veneto for the project “Open innovation in the Veneto. Mapping innovation and technological transfer Centres”. The authors would like to thank the Centres who collaborated in the research. We would also like to acknowledge the financial support of the Italian Ministry of University and Research (PRIN Project 2006—Prot. 2006135741_002: “Organizational complementarities, stability, change and innovation performance in Italian SMEs”). Comments from the editor and the anonymous referees are gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ManagementCa’ Foscari University - VeniceVeniceItaly
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsCa’ Foscari University - VeniceVeniceItaly

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