The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 49–72 | Cite as

Rethinking loose coupling of rules and entrepreneurial practices among university scientists: a Japan–Israel comparison

  • Adi SapirEmail author
  • Nahoko Kameo


This paper explores the trajectories of the development and institutionalization of technology transfer structures and activities in Israel and Japan, two countries with strong science and technology sectors, from the 1950s to the present. We examine the local arrangements that existed before the introduction of the U.S. model in the 1980s and 90s, and how the Japanese and Israeli schemes of technology transfer evolved under the combination of local practices and U.S. influence. Drawing on new institutional theory’s concept of loose coupling, we identify different types of loose coupling between formal structures and practices in Israeli and Japanese fields of technology transfer before and after the introduction of U.S. model. Our analysis show that the new configurations in the two countries are best analyzed by looking at two factors: (1) The perceived efficacy of the local, previous technology transfer arrangements, and; (2) the gap between the local arrangement and the U.S. technology transfer model. In the Israeli case, the former technology transfer model was similar to the one in the U.S.—however, it was perceived as potentially ineffective and thus disputable. In the Japanese case, the former technology transfer model was seen as effective and largely uncontested. The introduction of the U.S. formal model with the university ownership of patents disrupted the informal technology transfer mechanisms in Japan. These historical trajectories explain why, on one hand, Israeli science community was quick to adopt to the U.S. model but contested its efficacy and legitimacy, and on the other hand, the Japanese science community modified the U.S. model through negotiating conditions that were as favorable to firms than universities as their previous mode of technology transfer. Through these cases, we show how loose coupling in each field developed and changed in response to global and local policies. We argue that attention to the local dynamics of loose coupling can help explain local variations in the global diffusion of the American style of technology transfer.


Technology transfer Loose coupling Universities Commercialization Japan Israel 

JEL Classification

O34 O38 O32 


  1. Acs, Z. J., Audretsch, D. B., Lehmann, E. E., & Licht, G. (2016). National systems of entrepreneurship. Small Business Economics, 46(4), 527–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berman, E. P. (2008). Why did universities start patenting? Institution-building and the road to the Bayh–Dole Act. Social Studies of Science, 38, 835–871.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berman, E. P. (2012). Creating the market university: How academic science became an economic engine. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Calvert, J. (2006). What’s special about basic research? Science, Technology and Human Values, 31, 199–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carayannis, E. G., Cherepovitsyn, A. Y., & Ilinova, A. A. (2016). Technology commercialization in entrepreneurial universities: The U.S. and Russian experience. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 41, 1135–1147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel. (2016). Press release: Survey of knowledge commercialization companies in Israel 2014–2015. Reports on invention disclosures, patents, license agreements, income and startup companies, May 22, 2016.Google Scholar
  7. Cohen, U. (2003). Conflict in academia: The Hebrew University during the war of independence, 1947–49. Journal of Israeli History, 22(2), 96–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Colyvas, J. A., & Powell, W. W. (2006). Roads to institutionalization: The remaking of boundaries between public and private science. Research in Organizational Behavior, 27, 315–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Damsgaard, E. F., & Thursby, M. C. (2013). University entrepreneurship and professor privilege. Industrial and Corporate Change, 22(1), 183–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Decter, M. H. (2009). Comparative review of UK–USA industry–university relationships. Education & Training, 51(8), 624–634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. DiMaggio, P. J., & Powell, W. W. (1983). The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Sociological Review, 48(2), 147–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. EC-European Commission. (2013). Innovation union competitiveness report 2013 (December).Google Scholar
  13. Freeman, C. (1995). The national innovation systems in historical perspective. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 19(1), 5–24.Google Scholar
  14. Geuna, A., & Rossi, F. (2011). Changes to university IPR regulations in Europe and the impact on academic patenting. Research Policy, 40(8), 1068–1076.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Grimaldi, R., Kenny, M., Siegel, D. S., & Wright, M. (2011). 30 years after Bayh–Dole: Reassessing academic entrepreneurship. Research Policy, 40, 1045–1057.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Grimpe, C., & Fier, H. (2010). Informal university technology transfer: A comparison between the United States and Germany. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 35(6), 637–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hallett, T., & Ventresca, M. J. (2006). How institutions form: Loose coupling as mechanism in Gouldner’s patterns of industrial bureaucracy. The American Behavioral Scientist, 49(7), 908–924.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Japan Patent Office. (2009). Daigaku hatsu Tokkyo ni yoru keizaiteki kouka ni kansuru kenkyu houkokusho (Research report on the economic effects of university-originated patents). Division of research and promotion of university intellectual property. Retrieved on May 10, 2017 at
  19. Kameo, N. (2015). Gifts, donations, and loose coupling: Responses to changes in academic entrepreneurship among Japanese bioscientists. Theory and Society, 44, 177–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kenney, M., & Patton, D. (2009). Reconsidering the Bayh–Dole Act and the current university invention ownership model. Research Policy, 38(9), 1407–1422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kneller, R. (2003). University–Industry cooperation and technology transfer in Japan compared with the United States: Another reason for Japan’s economic malaise. University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Economic Law, 24(2), 329–449.Google Scholar
  22. Kneller, R. (2007). Bridging island: Venture companies and the future of Japanese and American industry. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kochenkova, A., Grimaldi, R., & Munari, F. J. (2016). Public policy measures in support of knowledge transfer activities: A review of academic literature. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 41(3), 407–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Leisyte, L. (2011). University commercialization policies and their implementation in the Netherlands and the United States. Science and Public Policy, 38(6), 437–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lissoni, F., Llerena, P., McKelvey, M., & Sanditov, B. (2008). Academic patenting in Europe: New evidence from the KEINS database. Research Evaluation, 17(2), 87–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lundvall, B. A. (1988). Innovation as an interactive process: From user–producer interaction to the national innovation systems. In G. Dosi, C. Freeman, R. R. Nelson, G. Silverberg, & L. Soete (Eds.), Technology and economic theory. London: Pinter Publishers.Google Scholar
  27. Lundvall, B. A. (1992). National innovation systems: Towards a theory of innovation and interactive learning. London: Pinter Publishers.Google Scholar
  28. Meyer, J. W., & Rowan, B. (1977). Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony. American Journal of Sociology, 83(2), 340–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ministry of Education [Japan]. (1978). Kokuritu daigaku tou no kyoukan tou no hatsumei ni kakawaru tokkyo no toriatsukai ni tsuite (Regarding the management of patents concerning the inventions of professors at national universities and equivalent institutions). Notice no. 117. March 25.Google Scholar
  30. Mowery, D. C., & Sampat, B. N. (2005). The Bayh–Dole Act of 1980 and university–industry technology transfer: A model for other OECD governments? The Journal of Technology Transfer, 30, 115–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nelson, R. (1993). National innovation systems: A comparative analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Odagiri, H. (1999). University-Industry Collaboration in Japan: Facts and Interpretations. In L. M. Branscomb, F. Kodama, & R. Florida (Eds.), Industrializing knowledge: University–industry linkages in Japan and the United States (pp. 252–268). Cambridge: MIP Press.Google Scholar
  33. OECD. (2014). Science, technology and industry outlook 2014. Paris: OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  34. Orton, D. J., & Weick, K. E. (1990). Loosely coupled systems: A reconceptualization. The Academy of Management Review, 15(2), 203–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Owen-Smith, J., Riccaboni, M., Pammolli, F., & Powell, W. W. (2002). A comparison of U.S. and European university–industry relations in the life sciences. Management Science, 48(1), 24–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pechter, K., & Kakinuma, S. (1999). Coauthorship linkages between university research and Japanese industry. In L. M. Branscomb, F. Kodama, & R. Florida (Eds.), Industrializing knowledge: university–industry linkages in Japan and the United States (pp. 20–63). Cambridge: MIP Press.Google Scholar
  37. Powell, W. W., & Colyvas, J. A. (2008). Microfoundations of institutional theory. In R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, K. Sahlin-Andersson, & R. Suddaby (Eds.), Handbook of organizational institutionalism (pp. 276–298). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sapir, A. (2017). Protecting the purity of pure research: Organizational boundary-work at an institute of basic research. Minerva, A Review of Science, Learning and Policy, 55(1), 65–91.Google Scholar
  39. Sapir, A., & Oliver, A. (2017). Loose coupling, conflict and resistance: The case of IPR policy conflict in an Israeli university. Higher Education, 73(5), 709–724.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schauz, Désirée. (2014). What is basic research? Insights from historical semantics. Minerva, 52(3), 273–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Scott, W. R. (2004). Institutional theory. In G. Ritzer (Ed.), Encyclopedia of social theory (pp. 408–414). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  42. Señor, D., & Singer, S. (2009). Start-up nation: The story of Israel’s economic miracle. New York: Twelve.Google Scholar
  43. Smith, H. L., Dahlstrand, A. L., & Baines, N. (2013). Reconsidering the Professor’s privilege: University technology transfer in Sweden and the UK. (Unpublished manuscript).Google Scholar
  44. The Israeli State Comptroller Annual Report. (2012). October 17, 2012, pp. 185–239.Google Scholar
  45. Thursby, J., Fuller, A. W., & Thursby, M. (2009). U.S. faculty patenting: Inside and outside the university. Research Policy, 38(1), 14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Troen, S. I. (1992). Higher education in Israel: An historical perspective. Higher Education, 23(1), 45–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Weick, K. E. (1976). Educational organizations as loosely coupled systems. Administrative Science Quarterly, 21, 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Yoshihara, M., & Tamai, K. (1999). Lack of incentive and persisting constraints: Factors hindering technology transfer at Japanese universities. In L. M. Branscomb, F. Kodama, & R. Florida (Eds.), Industrializing Knowledge: university–industry linkages in Japan and the United States (pp. 348–364). Cambridge: MIP Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Leadership and Policy in Education, Faculty of EducationUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Department of SociologyNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations