Technology Transfer in Agriculture: The Case of Wageningen University

  • Sebastian Hoenen
  • Christos Kolympiris
  • Emiel Wubben
  • Onno Omta
Part of the Innovation, Technology, and Knowledge Management book series (ITKM)


Even though returns on R&D in agriculture are high, technology transfer from academia to industry is not strong in this field. In this chapter, we study what universities can do to strengthen knowledge transfer from academia to industry, specifically in agriculture. We use Wageningen University and Research (WUR), a leading institution in technology transfer in agriculture science, as a case study. We present a detailed historical account of technology transfer at WUR and follow with a set of interviews conducted with different stakeholders in technology transfer. The results from our interviews highlight that WUR has facilitated technology transfer through four mechanisms: (1) department independence to pursue different forms of technology transfer; (2) implementation of a general legal framework of technology transfer to unburden departments, scientists, and IP staff; (3) embracing a culture where the prime driver for technology transfer is a “responsibility to give back to society” rather than income; and (4) embedding itself in a location where ties with industry are the norm. Our work is timely because technology transfer to industry is increasingly pursued at universities across the globe. The success of those efforts is not always guaranteed. We inform stakeholders and researchers by presenting a better understanding of what works and what does not work in technology transfer in agriculture.


  1. Abrams, I., G. Leung, and A.J. Stevens. 2009. How Are US Technology Transfer Offices Tasked and Motivated-Is It All About the Money. Research Management Review 17 (1): 1–34.Google Scholar
  2. Acs, Z.J., D.B. Audretsch, and M.P. Feldman. 1992. Real Effects of Academic Research: Comment. The American Economic Review 82 (1): 363–367.Google Scholar
  3. Agentschap, N., and D.N. Octrooicentrum. 2013. Regionale Innovatie Systemen (Ris) En Ip-Based Entrepreneurschip in De Economische Regio’s Rondom Nederlandse Universiteiten. Agentschap NL: Divisie NL Octrooicentrum.Google Scholar
  4. Agrawal, A. 2006. Engaging the Inventor: Exploring Licensing Strategies for University Inventions and the Role of Latent Knowledge. Strategic Management Journal 27 (1): 63–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Agrawal, A., and R. Henderson. 2002. Putting Patents in Context: Exploring Knowledge Transfer from Mit. Management Science 48 (1): 44–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Agrawal, A.K. 2001. University-to-Industry Knowledge Transfer: Literature Review and Unanswered Questions. International Journal of Management Reviews 3 (4): 285–302. Scholar
  7. Arundel, A., and A. Geuna. 2004. Proximity and the Use of Public Science by Innovative European Firms. Economics of Innovation and New Technology 13 (6): 559–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Azoulay, P., W. Ding, and T. Stuart. 2007. The Determinants of Faculty Patenting Behavior: Demographics or Opportunities? Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 63 (4): 599–623. Scholar
  9. ———. 2009. The Impact of Academic Patenting on the Rate, Quality and Direction of (Public) Research Output. Journal of Industrial Economics 57 (4): 637–676. Scholar
  10. Beemer, F. 2006. Groene Kennis (De) Centraal?: Evaluatie Van De Wijzigingen in Het Landbouwkundig Onderzoek, Berenschot, Utrecht.
  11. Bekkers, R., and I.M. Bodas Freitas. 2008. Analysing Knowledge Transfer Channels between Universities and iIndustry: To What Degree Do Sectors Also Matter? Research Policy 37 (10): 1837–1853. Scholar
  12. Bercovitz, J., M. Feldman, I. Feller, and R. Burton. 2001. Organizational Structure as a Determinant of Academic Patent and Licensing Behavior: An Exploratory Study of Duke, Johns Hopkins, and Pennsylvania State Universities. The Journal of Technology Transfer 26 (1): 21–35. Scholar
  13. Boardman, P.C., and E.A. Corley. 2008. University Research Centers and the Composition of Research Collaborations. Research Policy 37 (5): 900–913.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Boardman, P.C., and B.L. Ponomariov. 2009. University Researchers Working with Private Companies. Technovation 29 (2): 142–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Breschi, S., and F. Lissoni. 2001. Knowledge Spillovers and Local Innovation Systems: A Critical Survey. Industrial and Corporate Change 10 (4): 975–1005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Broekhuizen, K. 2016. Grote Bedrijven Moeten Zich Ook Weer Als Starter Gaan Gedragen. Het Financieel Dagblad. from
  17. Bulut, H., and G. Moschini. 2009. US Universities’ Net Returns from Patenting and Licensing: A Quantile Regression Analysis. Economics of Innovation and New Technology 18 (2): 123–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Bush, V. 1945. Science: The Endless Frontier. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science (1903-) 48 (3): 231–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Callaert, J., P. Landoni, B. Van Looy, and R. Verganti. 2015. Scientific Yield from Collaboration with Industry: The Relevance of Researchers’ Strategic Approaches. Research Policy 44 (4): 990–998. Scholar
  20. Cassiman, B., R. Veugelers, and P. Zuniga. 2008. In Search of Performance Effects of (in) Direct Industry Science Links. Industrial and Corporate Change 17 (4): 611–646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Clarysse, B., and N. Moray. 2004. A Process Study of Entrepreneurial Team Formation: The Case of a Research-Based Spin-Off. Journal of Business Venturing 19 (1): 55–79. Scholar
  22. Cockburn, I.M., and R.M. Henderson. 1998. Absorptive Capacity, Coauthoring Behavior, and the Organization of Research in Drug Discovery. The Journal of Industrial Economics 46 (2): 157–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cohen, W.M., R.R. Nelson, and J.P. Walsh. 2002. Links and Impacts: The Influence of Public Research on Industrial R&D. Management Science 48 (1): 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Colombo, M.G., and M. Delmastro. 2002. How Effective Are Technology Incubators? Evidence from Italy. Research Policy 31 (7): 1103–1122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Colyvas, J., M. Crow, A. Gelijns, R. Mazzoleni, R.R. Nelson, N. Rosenberg, and B.N. Sampat. 2002. How Do University Inventions Get into Practice? Management Science 48 (1): 61–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Crespi, G., P. D’Este, R. Fontana, and A. Geuna. 2011. The Impact of Academic Patenting on University Research and Its Transfer. Research Policy 40 (1): 55–68. Scholar
  27. Crombach, C., and J. Koene. 2008. From ‘Wageningen City of Life Sciences’to ‘Food Valley’. Pathways to High-Tech Valleys and Research Triangles: Innovative Entrepreneurship, Knowledge Transfer and Cluster and Cluster Formation in Europe and the United States 24: 293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. D’Este, P., and P. Patel. 2007. University-Industry Linkages in the Uk: What Are the Factors Underlying the Variety of Interactions with Industry? Research Policy 36 (9): 1295–1313. Scholar
  29. D’este, P., and M. Perkmann. 2011. Why Do Academics Engage with Industry? The Entrepreneurial University and Individual Motivations. The Journal of Technology Transfer 36 (3): 316–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Debackere, K., and R. Veugelers. 2005. The Role of Academic Technology Transfer Organizations in Improving Industry Science Links. Research Policy 34 (3): 321–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Drivas, K., A. Panagopoulos, and S. Rozakis. 2016. Instigating Entrepreneurship to a University in an Adverse Entrepreneurial Landscape. The Journal of Technology Transfer 41: 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Etzkowitz, H. 1998. The Norms of Entrepreneurial Science: Cognitive Effects of the New University-Industry Linkages. Research Policy 27 (8): 823–833.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Etzkowitz, H., and L. Leydesdorff. 2000. The Dynamics of Innovation: From National Systems and “Mode 2” to a Triple Helix of University-Industry-Government Relations. Research Policy 29 (2): 109–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Fabrizio, K.R. 2009. Absorptive Capacity and the Search for Innovation. Research Policy 38 (2): 255–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Feldman, M., and P. Desrochers. 2003. Research Universities and Local Economic Development: Lessons from the History of the Johns Hopkins University. Industry and Innovation 10 (1): 5–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Feldman, M., I. Feller, J. Bercovitz, and R. Burton. 2002. Equity and the Technology Transfer Strategies of American Research Universities. Management Science 48 (1): 105–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Fontana, R., A. Geuna, and M. Matt. 2006. Factors Affecting University–Industry R&D Projects: The Importance of Searching, Screening and Signalling. Research Policy 35 (2): 309–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Friedman, J., and J. Silberman. 2003. University Technology Transfer: Do Incentives, Management, and Location Matter? The Journal of Technology Transfer 28 (1): 17–30. Scholar
  39. Fuglie, K.O., and A.A. Toole. 2014. The Evolving Institutional Structure of Public and Private Agricultural Research. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 96 (3): 862–883. Scholar
  40. Geuna, A., and A. Muscio. 2009. The Governance of University Knowledge Transfer: A Critical Review of the Literature. Minerva 47 (1): 93–114. Scholar
  41. Goh, S.C. 2002. Managing Effective Knowledge Transfer: An Integrative Framework and Some Practice Implications. Journal of Knowledge Management 6 (1): 23–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Gulbrandsen, M., and J.C. Smeby. 2005. Industry Funding and University Professors’ Research Performance. Research Policy 34 (6): 932–950. Scholar
  43. Gurney-Read, J. 2016. The World’s Top Universities by Subject. The Telegraph, 12:01AM GMT 22 Mar 2016. from
  44. Hall, B.H., A.N. Link, and J.T. Scott. 2003. Universities as Research Partners. The Review of Economics and Statistics 85 (2): 485–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Henderson, R., A.B. Jaffe, and M. Trajtenberg. 1998. Universities as a Source of Commercial Technology: A Detailed Analysis of University Patenting, 1965–1988. The Review of Economics and Statistics 80 (1): 119–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hewitt-Dundas, N. 2012. Research Intensity and Knowledge Transfer Activity in Uk Universities. Research Policy 41 (2): 262–275. Scholar
  47. Hulsink, W., H. Dons, T. Lans, and V. Blok. 2014. Boosting Entrepreneurship Education within the Knowledge Network of the Dutch Agri-Food Sciences: The New Wageningen’ Approach. In Handbook on the Entrepreneurial University, 248–278. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  48. Hulsink, W., and J. Dons. 2008. Pathways to High-Tech Valleys and Research Triangles: Innovative Entrepreneurship, Knowledge Transfer and Cluster Formation in Europe and the United States. Dordrecht: Springer Science & Business Media.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Huyghe, A., M. Knockaert, E. Piva, and M. Wright. 2016. Are Researchers Deliberately Bypassing the Technology Transfer Office? An Analysis of Tto Awareness. Small Business Economics 47 (3): 589–607. Scholar
  50. Jaffe, A.B. 1989. Real Effects of Academic Research. The American Economic Review 5: 957–970.Google Scholar
  51. Kenney, M., and D. Patton. 2009. Reconsidering the Bayh-Dole Act and the Current University Invention Ownership Model. Research Policy 38 (9): 1407–1422. Scholar
  52. Kolympiris, C., and N. Kalaitzandonakes. 2013. Geographic Scope of Proximity Effects among Small Life Sciences Firms. Small Business Economics 40 (4): 1059–1086.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Kolympiris, C., N. Kalaitzandonakes, and D. Miller. 2011. Spatial Collocation and Venture Capital in the US Biotechnology Industry. Research Policy 40 (9): 1188–1199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. ———. 2014. Public Funds and Local Biotechnology Firm Creation. Research Policy 43 (1): 121–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Kolympiris, C., and P.G. Klein. 2017. The Effects of Academic Incubators on University Innovation. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal 11: 145–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Landry, R., N. Amara, and M. Ouimet. 2007. Determinants of Knowledge Transfer: Evidence from Canadian University Researchers in Natural Sciences and Engineering. Journal of Technology Transfer 32 (6): 561–592. Scholar
  57. Laursen, K., and A. Salter. 2004. Searching High and Low: What Types of Firms Use Universities as a Source of Innovation? Research Policy 33 (8): 1201–1215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lee, Y.S. 2000. The Sustainability of University-Industry Research Collaboration: An Empirical Assessment. The Journal of Technology Transfer 25 (2): 111–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Litan, R.E., L. Mitchell, and E. Reedy. 2007. Commercializing University Innovations: Alternative Approaches. Innovation policy and the economy 8: 31–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Manawatu Standard. 1999. Lecturer Launching a Pig Growth Model. Manawatu Standard (New Zealand). from.Google Scholar
  61. Mansfield, E. 1991. Academic Research and Industrial Innovation. Research Policy 20 (1): 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. ———. 1995. Academic Research Underlying Industrial Innovations: Sources, Characteristics, and Financing. The Review of Economics and Statistics 77: 55–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. ———. 1997. Academic Research and Industrial Innovation: An Update of Empirical Findings. Research Policy 26 (7): 773–776.Google Scholar
  64. ———. 1998. Academic Research and Industrial Innovation: An Update of Empirical Findings. Research Policy 26 (7–8): 773–776.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Markman, G.D., P.T. Gianiodis, and P.H. Phan. 2008. Full-Time Faculty or Part-Time Entrepreneurs. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management 55 (1): 29–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Markman, G.D., P.T. Gianiodis, P.H. Phan, and D.B. Balkin. 2004. Entrepreneurship from the Ivory Tower: Do Incentive Systems Matter? The Journal of Technology Transfer 29 (3): 353–364. Scholar
  67. ———. 2005. Innovation Speed: Transferring University Technology to Market. Research Policy 34 (7): 1058–1075. Scholar
  68. Meyer-Thurow, G. 1982. The Industrialization of Invention: A Case Study from the German Chemical Industry. Isis 73 (3): 363–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Mindruta, D. 2013. Value Creation in University-Firm Research Collaborations: A Matching Approach. Strategic Management Journal 34 (6): 644–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Mowery, D., R. Nelson, B. Sampat, and A. Ziedonis. 2015. Ivory Tower and Industrial Innovation: University-Industry Technology Transfer before and after the Bayh-Dole Act. Redwood City: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Narin, F., K.S. Hamilton, and D. Olivastro. 1997. The Increasing Linkage between US Technology and ublic Science. Research Policy 26 (3): 317–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. O’Gorman, C., O. Byrne, and D. Pandya. 2008. How Scientists Commercialise New Knowledge Via Entrepreneurship. The Journal of Technology Transfer 33 (1): 23–43. Scholar
  73. O’Kane, C., V. Mangematin, W. Geoghegan, and C. Fitzgerald. 2015. University Technology Transfer Offices: The Search for Identity to Build Legitimacy. Research Policy 44 (2): 421–437. Scholar
  74. Omta, O., and F. Fortuin. 2013. Effectiveness of Cluster Organizations in Facilitating Open Innovation in Regional Innovation Systems: The Case of Food Valley in the Netherlands. in Open Innovation in the Food and Beverage Industry, ed. G. M. Martiner. Oxford: Woodhead Publishing.Google Scholar
  75. Omta, O., and E. Wubben. 2004. Agrosector Verdient Navolging. Het Finaniceele Dagblad, 27 November 2004. In from.Google Scholar
  76. Parker, D., F. Castillo, and D. Zilberman. 2001. Public-Private Sector Linkages in Research and Development: The Case of U.S. Agriculture. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 83 (3): 736–741.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Peper, B. 1996. Duurzame Kennis, Duurzame Landbouw. Gemeente Rotterdam 43.Google Scholar
  78. Perez-Ruiz, M., J. Carballido, and J. Agüera Vega. 2013. University Spin-Off Creation by Spanish Researchers in Agricultural Engineering. Journal of Technology Management & Innovation 8 (3): 152–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Perkmann, M., V. Tartari, M. McKelvey, E. Autio, A. Broström, P. D’Este, R. Fini, A. Geuna, R. Grimaldi, A. Hughes, S. Krabel, M. Kitson, P. Llerena, F. Lissoni, A. Salter, and M. Sobrero. 2013. Academic Engagement and Commercialisation: A Review of the Literature on University–Industry Relations. Research Policy 42 (2): 423–442. Scholar
  80. Perkmann, M., and K. Walsh. 2008. Engaging the Scholar: Three Types of Academic Consulting and Their Impact on Universities and Industry. Research Policy 37 (10): 1884–1891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Polish News Bulletin. 2016. Unilever Relocates Its Polish R&D Centre to the Netherlands. Polish News Bulletin, BUSINESS. from.Google Scholar
  82. Porter, M. 2001. Innovation and Competitiveness: Findings on the Netherlands: Innovation Lecture 2001 Organizing Innovation in the Knowledge-Based Economy, the Hague, the Netherlands, December 3, 2001. The Hague: Ministry of Economic Affairs.Google Scholar
  83. Postlewait, A., D.D. Parker, and D. Zilberman. 1993. The Advent of Biotechnology and Technology Transfer in Agriculture. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 43 (3–4): 271–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Powers, J.B., and P.P. McDougall. 2005. University Start-up Formation and Technology Licensing with Firms That Go Public: A Resource-Based View of Academic Entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing 20 (3): 291–311. Scholar
  85. PR Newswire Europe. 2005. Campina and Wageningen University Sign Research Agreement. PR Newswire Europe. from.Google Scholar
  86. Pray, C.E. 2001. Public-Private Sector Linkages in Research and Development: Biotechnology and the Seed Industry in Brazil, China and India. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 83 (3): 742–747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Rothaermel, F.T., S.D. Agung, and L. Jiang. 2007. University Entrepreneurship: A Taxonomy of the Literature. Industrial and Corporate Change 16 (4): 691–791. Scholar
  88. Schartinger, D., C. Rammer, M.M. Fischer, and J. Fröhlich. 2002. Knowledge Interactions between Universities and Industry in Austria: Sectoral Patterns and Determinants. Research Policy 31 (3): 303–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Schartinger, D., A. Schibany, and H. Gassler. 2001. Interactive Relations between Universities and Firms: Empirical Evidence for Austria. Journal of Technology Transfer 26 (3): 255–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Schillebeeckx, S.J.D., S. Chaturvedi, G. George, and Z. King. 2016. What Do I Want? The Effects of Individual Aspiration and Relational Capability on Collaboration Preferences. Strategic Management Journal 37 (7): 1493–1506. Scholar
  91. Shane, S. 2004. Encouraging University Entrepreneurship? The Effect of the Bayh-Dole Act on University Patenting in the United States. Journal of Business Venturing 19 (1): 127–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Siegel, D.S., R. Veugelers, and M. Wright. 2007. Technology Transfer Offices and Commercialization of University Intellectual Property: Performance and Policy Implications. Oxford Review of Economic Policy 23 (4): 640–660.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Siegel, D.S., D. Waldman, and A. Link. 2003b. Assessing the Impact of Organizational Practices on the Relative Productivity of University Technology Transfer Offices: An Exploratory Study. Research Policy 32 (1): 27–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Siegel, D.S., D.A. Waldman, L.E. Atwater, and A.N. Link. 2003a. Commercial Knowledge Transfers from Universities to Firms: Improving the Effectiveness of University–Industry Collaboration. The Journal of High Technology Management Research 14 (1): 111–133. Scholar
  95. Siegel, D.S., and M. Wright. 2015. Academic Entrepreneurship: Time for a Rethink? British Journal of Management 26 (4): 582–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Stern, S. 2004. Do Scientists Pay to Be Scientists? Management Science 50 (6): 835–853.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Teece, D.J. 2000. Strategies for Managing Knowledge Assets: The Role of Firm Structure and Industrial Context. Long Range Planning 33 (1): 35–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Thursby, J., A.W. Fuller, and M. Thursby. 2009. US Faculty Patenting: Inside and Outside the University. Research Policy 38 (1): 14–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Thursby, J.G., and M.C. Thursby. 2003. University Licensing and the Bayh-Dole Act. Science 301 (5636): 1052–1052.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. ———. 2007. University Licensing. Oxford Review of Economic Policy 23 (4): 620–639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Tijssen, R.J. 2002. Science Dependence of Technologies:Evidence from Inventions and Their Inventors. Research Policy 31 (4): 509–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Toole, A.A. 2012. The Impact of Public Basic Research on Industrial Innovation: Evidence from the Pharmaceutical Industry. Research Policy 41 (1): 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. Unilever. 2016. Unilever Intends to Build a Foods Innovation Centre in Wageningen. London/Rotterdam.Google Scholar
  104. Van Looy, B., J. Callaert, and K. Debackere. 2006. Publication and patent Behavior of Academic Researchers: Conflicting, Reinforcing or Merely Co-Existing? Research Policy 35 (4): 596–608. Scholar
  105. Van Looy, B., M. Ranga, J. Callaert, K. Debackere, and E. Zimmermann. 2004. Combining Entrepreneurial and Scientific Performance in Academia: Towards a Compounded and Reciprocal Matthew-Effect? Research Policy 33 (3): 425–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  106. Versluis, K. 2006. Weekblad Voor Wageningen Ur. Resource. Wageningen, Cereales. from
  107. Wireless News. 2010. Dow Agrosciences and Wageningen Ur Sign Agreement.Google Scholar
  108. Wubben, E., and M. Batterink. 2011. Food Valley Als Ondernemend Kenniscluster. ESB Economisch Statistische Berichten 96 (4609S): 40–46.Google Scholar
  109. Yasmine. 2015. Spotlight: Wageningen Ur. Institute of Food Science and Technology, 01/12/2015. from
  110. Zahringer, K., C. Kolympiris, and N. Kalaitzandonakes. 2017. Academic Knowledge Quality Differentials and the Quality of Firm Innovation. Industrial and Corporate Change 26 (5): 821–844.Google Scholar
  111. Zeemeijer, I. and J. Verbeek. 2016. Investeringen in ‘Groene’ Start-Ups Zijn Booming. Het Financieel Dagblad. from

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian Hoenen
    • 1
  • Christos Kolympiris
    • 2
  • Emiel Wubben
    • 1
  • Onno Omta
    • 1
  1. 1.Wageningen University and ResearchWageningenNetherlands
  2. 2.University of BathBathUK

Personalised recommendations