Chinese university patents: quantity, quality, and the role of subsidy programs

Abstract

Chinese university patenting has gained importance in recent years. Using a comprehensive dataset of university patents by 155 leading Chinese universities from 1991 to 2009, our study pursues two objectives: First, we analyze the quantity and quality of patents filed by leading Chinese universities. Second, we analyze the role of subsidy programs with regard to university patenting in China. With regard to the first objective, our results show that university patents witnessed rapid growth in terms of quantity while patent quality did not increase to a similar degree. Regarding the second objective, we find that a subsidy program to promote research excellence at selected universities is a significant driver of patent quantity and quality. In contrast, a subsidy program that decreases the costs of patent applications seems to enhance patent quantity but not patent quality. We conclude that innovation policies which aim to stimulate patents of higher quality should focus primarily on increasing university R&D, and to a lesser extent on decreasing the costs of university patenting.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Therefore, we summarize these similar subsidy programs as “cost reimbursement subsidy”.

  2. 2.

    Other Rankings include the THE Asia University Ranking (THE 2013b), the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings (2004–2012) (Quacquarelli Symonds 2013), the Academic Ranking of World Universities (2003–2012) (Shanghai Jiao Tong University 2013), the China University Rankings (China University Assessment 2012), and the top 100 Chinese institutions as reported in the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities (Cybermetrics Lab 2013). In addition, we include universities participating in subsidy programs aimed at establishing leading universities (Project 211, 985) and universities that are characterized as “leading” universities on an authorized Chinese government portal website (www.china.org.cn).

  3. 3.

    Our data covers the period from 1991 to 2009 because certain data (e.g., R&D expenditures and R&D personnel) is not available for earlier years. Additionally, we had to exclude the province of Tibet from our analyses because data was not consistently available. However, this exclusion should not bias our results because only one of the universities is located in Tibet.

  4. 4.

    We also performed a zero-inflated negative binomial regression. The results are very similar to the reported negative binomial regressions.

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Acknowledgments

We thank two anonymous reviewers, Joaquín M. Azagra-Caro, Johannes Buckow, Sebastian Heilmann, Lea Shi, Stefan Wagner, Haibo Zhou, participants of the TIE conference 2013 in St. Gallen, and participants of the T2S conference 2013 in Bergamo for helpful comments and discussions on earlier versions of the paper.

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Correspondence to Christian O. Fisch.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 5, 6 and 7.

Table 5 Comparison of our data with SIPO data
Table 6 Sample of applicant names in PATSTAT that were matched to the university
Table 7 Detailed information on subsidy programs

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Fisch, C.O., Block, J.H. & Sandner, P.G. Chinese university patents: quantity, quality, and the role of subsidy programs. J Technol Transf 41, 60–84 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10961-014-9383-6

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Keywords

  • University patenting
  • China
  • Patent quantity
  • Patent quality
  • Subsidy programs
  • Project 985

JEL Classification

  • C23
  • O34
  • O53