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University technology transfer offices: The search for identity to build legitimacy

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  • O’Kane, Conor
  • Mangematin, Vincent
  • Geoghegan, Will
  • Fitzgerald, Ciara

Abstract

Technology transfer offices (TTOs) are of strategic importance to universities committed to the commercialization of academic knowledge. Within the university, TTOs’ relationship with academics and management is single agent-multiple principal. When two principals exist in an agency relationship, conflicting expectations can naturally arise. We explore how TTOs build legitimacy by shaping identity with university academics and management. In undertaking this research we draw on 63 interviews with TTO executives across 22 universities in the Ireland, New Zealand and the United States. We find that TTOs use identity-conformance and identity-manipulation to shape a dual identity, one scientific and the other business, with academics and management respectively. We show how this combination of identity strategies is ineffective for legitimizing the TTO. We propose that TTOs’ identity shaping strategies are incomplete and need to incorporate a wholly distinctive identity to complement and reinforce preliminary legitimacy claims made through conformance and manipulation. We discuss the potential implications of these findings for scholars, TTO executives and university management.

Suggested Citation

  • O’Kane, Conor & Mangematin, Vincent & Geoghegan, Will & Fitzgerald, Ciara, 2015. "University technology transfer offices: The search for identity to build legitimacy," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 421-437.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:44:y:2015:i:2:p:421-437
    DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2014.08.003
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    2. Viktor Slavtchev & Devrim Göktepe-Hultén, 2016. "Support for public research spin-offs by the parent organizations and the speed of commercialization," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 41(6), pages 1507-1525, December.
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    6. Villani, Elisa & Rasmussen, Einar & Grimaldi, Rosa, 2017. "How intermediary organizations facilitate university–industry technology transfer: A proximity approach," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 86-102.
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    9. Irene Martín-Rubio & Diego Andina, 2016. "University Knowledge Transfer Offices and Social Responsibility," Administrative Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(4), pages 1-19, December.
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    11. Annelore Huyghe & Mirjam Knockaert & Evila Piva & Mike Wright, 2016. "Are researchers deliberately bypassing the technology transfer office? An analysis of TTO awareness," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 47(3), pages 589-607, October.
    12. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:11:p:2042-:d:117859 is not listed on IDEAS
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    14. Mabel Sánchez Barrioluengo & Elvira Uyarra & Fumi Kitagawa, 2016. "The Evolution Of Triple Helix Dynamics: The Case Of English Higher Education Institutions," Working Papers 32, Birkbeck Centre for Innovation Management Research, revised Jul 2016.
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