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

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Adi Sapir.

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Sapir, A., Kameo, N. Rethinking loose coupling of rules and entrepreneurial practices among university scientists: a Japan–Israel comparison. J Technol Transf 44, 49–72 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10961-017-9596-6

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Keywords

  • Technology transfer
  • Loose coupling
  • Universities
  • Commercialization
  • Japan
  • Israel

JEL Classification

  • O34
  • O38
  • O32