Universities currently need to satisfy the demands of different audiences. In light of the increasing policy emphasis on “third mission” activities, universities are attempting to incorporate these into their traditional missions of teaching and research. University strategies to accomplishing its traditional missions are well-honed and routinized, but the incorporation of the third mission is posing important strategic and managerial challenges for universities. This study explores the relationship between university–business collaborations and academic excellence in order to examine the extent to which academic institutions can balance these objectives. Based on data from the UK Research Assessment Exercise 2001 at the level of the university department, we find no systematic positive or negative relationship between scientific excellence and engagement with industry. Across the disciplinary fields reported in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise (i.e. engineering, hard sciences, biomedicine, social sciences and the humanities) the relationship between academic excellence and engagement with business is largely contingent on the institutional context of the university department. This paper adds to the growing body of literature on university engagement with business by examining this activity for the social sciences and the humanities. Our findings have important implications for the strategic management of university departments and for higher education policy related to measuring the performance of higher education research institutions.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
E.g., a major UK Government policy measure, the Higher Education Innovation Fund, provides funds for setting up university technology transfer offices (TTO), whose remit includes stimulating and supporting university-industry collaboration and the commercialization of academic research. TTOs have to provide evidence of annual performance in these activities to the Higher Education and Business Interaction survey, managed by the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE), the agency that also conducted the research assessment exercises and allocates block funding to universities. In 2012, the UK Government allocated £200 million for the creation of “Catapult centres”, aimed specifically at supporting university-industry collaboration with the goal (among others) of commercializing university research and providing industry with access to advanced R&D facilities in universities.
The REF replaced the previous Research Assessment Exercise.
Most of the studies commissioned for the Hargreaves Review which was the basis for the recommendations, were completed in early March 2011; thus, we do not know whether any of the data/content from these studies will be adapted for journal publication.
Since allocation of block-grant funding is linked to the results of this assessment, the incentives to participate are high and all research active university departments in the UK are likely to take part and submit the required information.
UoA, at the university level, in some cases are larger than university departments. For instance, in some universities ‘general engineering’ may include mechanical engineering, civil engineering and electrical and electronic engineering departments. However, overall, there is a good match between UoA and university department.
The Appendix shows the correspondence between UoA and fields.
Data on RAE 2001 is published on: http://www.rae.ac.uk/2001.
Research outputs can include patents, book chapters, reports, new designs, artefacts, exhibitions, etc.
We considered two additional measures to capture scientific excellence from different angles and to check the robustness of the results. First, Scientific Excellence 2, which measures the average number of citations per paper for all papers corresponding to each department in our sample (this continuous variable was logarithmically transformed to attenuate problems associated with its skewed distribution). Second, Scientific Excellence 3, which, for each university department, measures the proportion of papers (relative to the university department’s total number of papers) cited as often as or more than the average number of citations per paper for the corresponding disciplinary field of the department.
The median values are: 6.84 % for Biomedical Science; 7.59 % for Hard Science; 23.57 % for Engineering; 3.68 % for Social Science, 0 % for humanities and 3.58 % for all departments.
Ordinary Least Square (OLS) and Tobit regression were applied to the additional measures Scientific Excellences 2 and Scientific Excellence 3, respectively.
We checked for a curvilinear relationship between engagement with business and scientific excellence, including the quadratic effect of our measure of engagement with business; however, the quadratic effects were not statistically significant. We do not show these results here, but they are available upon request.
Regressions considering the two additional measures of excellence show very similar results to those presented here, providing a further check of the robustness of our results.
To check the influence of possible outliers in our results we used two diagnostic tests: leverage and Cook’s distance. Less than 1 % of departments were detected as outliers. Regressions excluding outliers provide results similar to those reported here.
Adamsone-Fiskovica, A., Kristapsons, J., Tjunina, E., & Ulnicane-Ozolina, I. (2009). Moving beyond teaching and research: economic and social tasks of universities in Latvia. Science and Public Policy, 36, 133–137.
Agrawal, A., & Henderson, R. (2002). Putting patents in context: exploring knowledge transfer from MIT. Management Science, 48(1), 44–60.
Ambos, T. A., Mäkelä, K., Birkinshaw, J., & D’Este, P. (2008). When does university research get commercialized? Creating ambidexterity in research institutions. Journal of Management Studies, 45(88), 1424–1447.
Azoulay, P., Ding, W., & Stuart, T. (2007). The determinants of faculty patenting behaviours: Demographics or opportunities. Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization, 63(4), 599–623.
Baldini, N., Grimaldi, R., & Sobrero, M. (2006). Institutional changes and the commercialization of academic knowledge: A study of Italian universities’ patenting activities between 1965 and 2002. Research Policy, 35, 518–532.
Barker, K. (2007). The UK research assessment exercise: the evolution of a national research evaluation system. Research Evaluation, 16(1), 3–12.
Belenzon, S., & Schankerman, M. (2007). The impact of private ownership, incentives and local development objectives on university technology transfer performance (CEP discussion paper no 779). London: Centre for Economic Performance.
Bercovitz, J., & Feldman, M. (2004). Academic entrepreneurs: Social learning and participation in university technology transfer. Retrieved June 16, 2006 from http://www.hhh.umn.edu/centers/slp/clusters_entrepreneurship/pdf/bercovitz_academic_entrepreneurs.pdf.
Bercovitz, J., & Feldman, M. (2006). Entrepreneurial universities and technology transfer: A conceptual framework for understanding knowledge-based economic development. Journal of Technology Transfer, 31, 175–188.
Bercovitz, J., & Feldman, M. (2008). Academic entrepreneurs: Organizational change at the individual level. Organization Science, 19(1), 69–89.
Bercovitz, J., Feldman, M., Feller, I., & Burton, R. (2001). Organizational structure as a determinant of academic patent and licensing behavior: An exploratory study of Duke, Johns Hopkins, and Pennsylvania State Universities. Journal of Technology Transfer, 26(1–2), 21–35.
BIS (Department of Business, Innovation and Skills). (2011). Innovation and research strategy and growth. London: The Stationery Office Limited.
Blumenthal, D., Campbell, E. G., Anderson, M. S., Causino, N., & Louis, K. S. (1997). Withholding research results in academic life science: Evidence from a national survey. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 277, 1224–1228.
Blumenthal, D., Campbell, E. G., Causino, N., & Louis, K. S. (1996). Participation of life science faculty in research relationships with industry. New England Journal of Medicine, 335(23), 1734–1739.
Bok, D. (2003). Universities in the marketplace: The commercialization of higher education. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Breschi, S., Lissoni, F., & Montobbio, F. (2007). The scientific productivity of academic inventors: New evidence from Italian data. Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 16(2), 101–118.
Butler, L. (2007). Assessing university research: A plea for a balanced approach. Science and Public Policy, 34(8), 565–574.
Calderini, M., & Franzoni, C. (2004). Is academic patenting detrimental to high quality research? An empirical analysis of the relationship between scientific careers and patent applications. CESPRI working paper 162. Milan: Bocconi University.
Carayol, N., & Matt, M. (2006). Individual and collective determinants of academic scientists’ productivity. Information. Economics and Policy, 18(1), 55–72.
Clarke, B. R. (1998). Creating entrepreneurial universities: Organizational pathways of transformation. Kidlington: Pergamon.
Cook, R. D., & Weisberg, S. (1982). Residuals and influence in regression. London: Chapman and Hall.
Coryn, C. L. S., Hattie, J. A., Scriven, M., & Hartmann, D. J. (2007). Models and mechanisms for evaluating government-funded research: An international comparison. American Journal of Evaluation, 28(4), 437–457.
D’Este, P., & Perkmann, M. (2011). Why do academics engage with industry? The entrepreneurial university and individual motivations. Journal of Technology Transfer, 36(3), 316–339.
Dasgupta, P., & David, P. (1994). Toward a new economics of science. Research Policy, 23(5), 487–521.
Dietz, J. S., & Bozeman, B. (2005). Academic careers, patents and productivity: industry experience as scientific and technical human capital. Research Policy, 34(3), 349–367.
DIUS. (2008). Innovation nation. London: HM Stationary Office.
Donovan, C. (2007). Testing novel quantitative indicators of research quality, esteem and user engagement: An economics pilot study. Research Evaluation, 16(4), 231–242.
Etzkowitz, H. (1998). The norms of entrepreneurial science: Cognitive-effects of the new university–industry linkages. Research Policy, 27, 823–833.
Etzkowitz, H., & Leydesdorff, L. (2000). The dynamics of innovation: From national systems and ‘Mode 2’ to a triple helix of university–industry–government relations. Research Policy, 29, 109–123.
Etzkowitz, H., Webster, A., Gebhardt, C., & Terra, B. R. C. (2000). The future of university and the university of the future: Evolution of ivory tower to entrepreneurial paradigm. Research Policy, 29, 313–330.
Fini, R., Grimalid, R., & Sobrero, M. (2009). Factors fostering academics to start up new ventures: An assessment of Italian founders’ incentives. Journal of Technology Transfer, 34, 380–402.
Florida, R. L., & Cohen, W. M. (1999). Engine or infrastructure? The university role in economic development. In: L.M. Branscomb, F. Kodama, R.L. Florida (Eds.), Industrializing knowledge. University–industry linkages in Japan and the United States. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Friedman, J., & Silberman, J. (2003). University technology transfer: Do incentives, management, and location matter? Journal of Technology Transfer, 28(1), 17–30.
Geuna, A., & Nesta, L. (2006). University patenting and its effects on academic research: The emerging European evidence. Research Policy, 35, 843–863.
Godin, B., & Gingras, Y. (2000). Impact of collaborative research on academic science. Science and Public Policy, 27(1), 65–73.
Gokhberg, L., Kuznetsova, T., & Zaichenko, S. (2009). Towards a new role of universities in Russia: Prospects and limitations. Science and Public Policy, 36, 121–126.
Gray, D. O., Lindblad, M., & Rudolph, J. (2011). Industry–university research centers: A multivariate analysis of member retention. Journal of Technology Transfer, 26, 247–254.
Gulbrandsen, M., & Smeby, J.-C. (2005). Industry funding and university professors’ research performance. Research Policy, 34, 932–950.
HEFCE. (2006). Strategic plan 2006–11. Bristol: Higher Education Funding Council for England.
HM Government. (2011). Government response to the hargreaves review of intellectual property and growth. Newport Wales: UK Intellectual Property Office. http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/innovation/docs/g/11-1199-government-response-to-hargreaves-review.
Jensen, R., & Thursby, M. C. (2004). Patent licensing and the research university. Cambridge: NBER.
Kostoff, R. N. (1998). The use and misuse of citation analysis in research evaluation. Scientometrics, 43(1), 27–43.
Lach, S., & Schankerman, M. (2007). Incentives and invention in universities (CEP discussion paper no 729). London: London School of Economics.
Lam, A. (2011). What motivates academic scientists to engage in research commercialization: ‘Gold’, ‘ribbon’ or ‘puzzle’? Research Policy, 40, 1354–1368.
Lambert, R. (2003). Lambert review on business university collaboration. London: HMSO.
Larsen, M. T. (2008). Too close for comfort? The effect of university–industry collaboration on the scientific performance of university professors. Paper presented at the CAS workshop on the changing role of public sector research in innovation, 26–28 March 2008. Lysebu, Oslo, Norway: CAS.
Larsen, W. A., & McCreary, S. J. (1972). The use of partial residual plots in regression analysis. Technometrics, 14(3), 781–790.
Lee, S. Y. (1996). ‘Technology transfer’ and the research university: A search for the boundaries of university–industry collaboration. Research Policy, 25, 843–863.
Louis, K. S., Jones, L. M., Anderson, M., Blumenthal, D., & Campbell, E. G. (2001). Entrepreneurship, secrecy, and productivity: A comparison of clinical and non-clinical life sciences faculty. Journal of Technology Transfer, 26, 233–245.
MacRoberts, M. H., & MacRoberts, B. R. (1996). Problems of citation analysis. Scientometrics, 36, 435–444.
Mahdi, S., D’Este, P., & Neely, A. (2008). Citation counts: Are they good predictors of RAE scores? A bibliometric analysis of RAE 2001. AIM report, February 2008. London: AIM.
Mansfield, E., & Lee, J. Y. (1996). The modern university: Contributor to industrial innovation and recipient of industrial R&D support. Research Policy, 25(7), 1047–1058.
Markman, G. D., Gianiodis, P. T., Phan, P., & Balkin, D. B. (2004). Entrepreneurship from the ivory tower: Do incentive systems matter. Journal of Technology Transfer, 29, 353–364.
Martin, B. R., & Etzkowitz, H. (2000). The origin and evolution of the university species. VEST Journal for Science and Technology Studies, 13, 9–34.
Martin, B. R., & Irvine, J. (1983). Assessing basic research: Some partial indicators of scientific progress in radio astronomy. Research Policy, 12, 61–90.
Martin, S., & Scott, J. T. (2000). The nature of innovation market failure and the design of public support for private innovation. Research Policy, 29, 437–447.
Meyer, M., & Tang, P. (2007). Exploring the “value” of academic patents: IP management practices in UK universities and their implications for third stream indicators. Scientometrics, 70(2), 415–440.
Meyer-Krahmer, F., & Schmoch, U. (1998). Science-based technologies: University–industry interactions in four fields. Research Policy, 27(8), 835–851.
Mingers, J., Evangelia, A. E., & Lipitakis, C. G. (2010). Counting the citations: A comparison of Web of Science and Google Scholar in the field of business and management. Scientometrics, 85, 613–625.
Moed, H. F. (2005). Citation analysis in research evaluation. Dordrecht: Springer.
Moed, H. F. (2007). The future of research evaluation rests with an intelligent combination of advanced metrics and transparent peer review. Science and Public Policy, 34(8), 474–583.
Moed, H. F., Glanzel, W., & Schmoch, U. (Eds.). (2004). Handbook of quantitative science and technology research: The use of publication and patent statistics in studies of S&T systems. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Nelson, R. R. (2001). Observations on the post Bayh-Dole rise of patenting universities. Journal of Technology Transfer, 26, 13–19.
Nelson, R. R. (2004). The market economy and the scientific commons. Research Policy, 33(3), 455–471.
Nightingale, P., & Scott, A. (2007). Peer review and the relevance gap: Ten suggestions for policy-makers. Science and Public Policy, 34(8), 453–553.
Norris, M., & Oppenheim, C. (2003). Citation counts and the research assessment exercise V: Archaeology and the 2001 RAE. Journal of Documentation, 59(6), 709–730.
OECD. (2002). Benchmarking industry–science relationships. Paris: OECD.
OECD. (2003). Turning science into business, patenting and licensing at public research organisations. Paris: OECD.
Owen-Smith, J. (2003). From separate systems to a hybrid order: Accumulative advantage across public and private science at research one universities. Research Policy, 32, 1081–1104.
Owen-Smith, J., & Powell, W. W. (2001). To patent or not: Faculty decisions and institutional success at technology transfer. Journal of Technology Transfer, 26, 99–114.
Phelan, T. J. (1999). A compendium of issues for citation analysis. Scientometrics, 45(1), 117–136.
Powers, J. B., & McDougall, P. (2005). Policy orientation effects on performance with licensing to start-ups and small companies. Research Policy, 34, 1028–1042.
Renault, C. S. (2006). Academic capitalism and university incentives for faculty entrepreneurship. Journal of Technology Transfer, 31(2), 227–239.
Schankerman, M. (2007). Harnessing success: Incentives for invention and technology transfer in universities. CentrePiece Autumn, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE. http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/cp231.pdf.
Siegel, D. S., Waldman, D., & Link, A. (2003). Assessing the impact of organizational practices on the relative productivity of university technology transfer offices: An exploratory study. Research Policy, 32, 27–48.
Siegel, D. S., & Wright, M. (2007). Intellectual property: The assessment. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 23(4), 529–540.
Siegel, D. S., Wright, M., & Lockett, A. (2007). The rise of entrepreneurial activity at universities: Organizational and societal implications. Industrial and Corporate Change, 16(4), 489–504.
Slaughter, S., & Rhoades, G. (1996). The emergence of a competitiveness research and development policy coalition and the commercialization of academic science and technology. Science, Technology and Human Values, 21, 303–339.
Stephan, P. E., Gurmu, S., Sumell, A. J., & Black, G. (2007). Who’s patenting in the university? Evidence from the survey of doctorate recipients. Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 61(2), 71–99.
Tang, P., Weckowska, D., Hobday, M., & Campos, A. (2009). Managing intellectual property in universities: Patents and the protection failure problem. A report prepared for the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. London: Gatsby Charitable Foundation.
Thursby, G., & Thursby, M. (2002). Who is selling the ivory tower? Sources of growth in university licensing. Management Science, 48, 90–104.
Thursby, G., & Thursby, M. (2004). Are faculty critical? Their role in university–industry licensing. Contemporary Economic Policy, 22(2), 162–178.
Thursby, J. G., & Thursby, M. C. (2011). Faculty participation in licensing: Implications for research. Research Policy, 40, 20–29.
Tijssen, R. J. W., Visser, M. S., & van Leeuwen, T. N. (2002). Benchmarking international scientific excellence: Are highly cited research papers an appropriate frame of reference? Scientometrics, 54(3), 381–397.
Van Looy, B., Ranga, M., Callaert, J., Debackere, K., & Zimmermann, E. (2004). Combining entrepreneurial and scientific performance in academia: Towards a compounded and reciprocal Matthew-effect? Research Policy, 33, 425–441.
Van Raan, A. F. J. (Ed.). (1988). Handbook of quantitative studies of science and technology. Amsterdam: Elsevier/North-Holland.
Warry, P. (2007). Increasing the economic impact of research councils. A report of the research council economic impact group to the director general of science and innovation. London: UK Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Business, Skills and Universities.
Whitley, R. (2007). The changing governance of the public sciences: The consequences of research evaluation systems. In R. Whitley, J. Glaser, & K. Barker (Eds.), The changing governance of the sciences: The advent of research evaluation systems. Dordrecht: Springer.
The authors would like to thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for very helpful comments. The authors acknowledge support from the Innovation and Productivity Grand Challenge (IPGC), an initiative of the Advanced Institute of Management Research (AIM) funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/C534239/1). We would like to thank the Chair of and the attendees at Session C3 of the 10th International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators, Vienna 2008 for useful comments on an early version of this paper.
About this article
Cite this article
D’Este, P., Tang, P., Mahdi, S. et al. The pursuit of academic excellence and business engagement: is it irreconcilable?. Scientometrics 95, 481–502 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-013-0955-2
- University–business collaborations
- Scientific excellence
- University departments
- University performance
- University management
- Impact assessment