The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 923–956 | Cite as

A review of qualitative case methods trends and themes used in technology transfer research

  • James A. CunninghamEmail author
  • Matthias Menter
  • Chris Young


The focus of this paper is to review the qualitative case methods that have been used in technology transfer research over the last 20 years from 1996 to 2015. Case methods allow for more in-depth analyses and provide the opportunity to place research into a certain context due to the selection of e.g. specific sectors, institutions, countries, etc. Using a systematic literature review of five of the top journals in the field of technology transfer research, namely Journal of Technology Transfer, Research Policy, Science and Public Policy, R&D Management and Technovation, it yielded 107 articles using the search terms: “Technology Transfer” AND (“Case Study” OR “Case Method” OR “Qualitative”). Our findings indicate a clustering of themes using qualitative case methods around technology transfer mechanisms and TTOs, academic entrepreneurship, university-industry collaboration, commercialization as well as R&D and firm knowledge transfer. We also identify trends in case method technology transfer research with respect to authorship, location of papers, sectoral contexts, data collection, numbers of cases and data analysis software. We conclude our paper discussing the implications of trends and themes and suggest that researchers need to reflect on used terminology and their utilization and postulate a need for more plurality of data collection methods.


Technology transfer Case method Case study Qualitative Research methods Data collection Cases Commercialization Academic entrepreneurship 

JEL Classification

C42 O31 O32 O33 O34 L6 L7 L8 L9 



James A. Cunningham acknowledges the funding support of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund under Grant Number 13/RC/2073.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • James A. Cunningham
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthias Menter
    • 2
  • Chris Young
    • 3
  1. 1.Newcastle Business SchoolNorthumbria UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK
  2. 2.Faculty of Business and EconomicsUniversity of AugsburgAugsburgGermany
  3. 3.Whitaker InstituteNational University of Ireland GalwayGalwayIreland

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