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University technology transfer in China: a literature review and taxonomy

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Abstract

The Chinese university system is one of the world’s largest academic research performers and technology transfer is one of the system’s central roles. Academic interest in Chinese university technology transfer in both the West and China has increased in parallel. This review aims to outline what is known and evaluate the state of research about university technology transfer in China. To be comprehensive, uniquely this review considers the relevant journal articles in both English and Chinese languages. The major themes and methodologies used by authors are identified. The evolution of the literature, particularly those in Chinese from general discussions often with minimal citations to more empirically rigorous studies is documented. It is also shown that the English and Chinese language literatures have little overlap in terms of citations, thereby indicating that the two research communities are still largely disconnected. It is found that the sources of data have remained quite limited and the quantitative research is based almost entirely upon government statistics collected for administrative purpose. The concluding discussion suggests possible avenues for future progress in terms of developing new data sources and increasing the cross-fertilization of two research communities.

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Source: China Science & Technology Statistics Data Book, various years

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Notes

  1. Early research suggested that investment by developing countries in higher education was negatively related to economic development (Psacharopoulos 1994). However, later research found more positive returns to higher education (Psacharopoulos and Patrinos 2004).

  2. In real dollar terms, Japan still spends more on university research than China.

  3. We identified one general review of all types of technology transfer in China (Chan and Daim 2011).

  4. As a convenience, every Chinese-language reference is marked with a “ch” before the date.

  5. The commentary classification refers to the large number of Chinese journal articles that are comments upon the general nature of technology transfer or its desirability. They are not based upon research and, for the most part, are not even descriptive.

  6. In other academic literature reviews, such as, Rothaermel et al. (2007) on academic entrepreneurship and Certo et al. (2009) on IPO research, there is a greater level of concentration because they narrowly circumscribed the journals searched. We chose to examine a far broader population of articles.

  7. Twenty-four of the 33 articles cited are official sources, primarily Chinese government statistics. Sixteen articles cited some type of academic source, typically a Chinese book or article on Chinese technology or industry. Only four articles cited the popular media.

  8. In contrast, U.S. university income from patents was approximately 4 % of total R&D funding, while in China it was less than 1 %.

  9. In the U.S. the National Science Foundation’s Science of Science Policy has done exactly this.

  10. For a similar concern in a quite different context, see Piñeiro and Hicks (2014).

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Acknowledgments

Aihua Chen gratefully acknowledges the support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant No. 71403104, Humanity and Social Science Youth Foundation of Ministry of Education of China under Grant No. 14YJCZH005, and the Zhejiang Provincial Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant No. LQ13G030016. The authors acknowledge the helpful comments and assistance of Al Link, Ben Martin, Francis Delos Santos, Max von Zedtwitz, and an anonymous reviewer.

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Chen, A., Patton, D. & Kenney, M. University technology transfer in China: a literature review and taxonomy. J Technol Transf 41, 891–929 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10961-016-9487-2

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