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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In the following, we will use the term ‘university scientist’ as shorthand for scientists employed at universities or other public research institutes.

  2. 2.

    This excludes the so-called ‘universities of applied sciences’ whose major task is teaching and not research.

  3. 3.

    For all variables which enter the regression in logs, a value of 0 was replaced by 0.1 to prevent missing values due to the log transformation.

  4. 4.

    The reason for this is that sampling proportions by field could not be taken into account as—due to the inclusion of government-funded research institutes—the population of scientists in Germany with regard to the field is not fully transparent. In Germany, a significant share of the engineering related research activities are performed by the Fraunhofer institutes in comparison to universities. The same applies to life sciences research which is to a significant extent performed at Max Planck institutes.

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Acknowledgments

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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Correspondence to Christoph Grimpe.

Appendix

Appendix

See Table 3.

Table 3 Correlations

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Grimpe, C., Fier, H. Informal university technology transfer: a comparison between the United States and Germany. J Technol Transf 35, 637–650 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10961-009-9140-4

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Keywords

  • Informal university technology transfer
  • Cross-country comparison

JEL Classification

  • J61
  • O33