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The Knowledge Filter and Economic Growth: The Role of Scientist Entrepreneurship

Listed author(s):
  • David B. Audretsch


  • Taylor Aldridge


  • Alexander Oettl

This paper examines the prevalence and determinants of the commercialization of research by university scientists funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Because the two publicly available modes of scientist commercialization – patents and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants – do not cover the full spectrum of commercializing activities undertaken by university scientists, the study also includes two additional measures obtained from detailed scientist interviews: licensing of intellectual property and starting a new firm. These measures are used to assess both the prevalence and determinants of scientist commercialization of research. In particular, the empirical findings suggest seven important insights: 1) Scientists receiving funding from the National Cancer Institute exhibit a robust propensity to commercialize their research. However, the prevalence of commercialization depends highly upon the actual mode of commercialization. Some modes of commercialization, such as patents, are more prevalent, while other modes, such as funding by the SBIR program are rarely used. 2) Scientist entrepreneurship is the sleeping giant of commercializing university research. More than one in four patenting NCI scientists have started a new firm. 3) Two paths for commercialization of scientist research are identified - the TTO route and the entrepreneurial route. Scientists who select the TTO route by commercializing their research through assigning all patents to their university TTO account for 70 percent of NCI patenting scientists. Scientists who choose the entrepreneurial route to commercialize their research, in that they do not assign patents to their university TTO, comprise 30 percent of patenting NCI scientists. 4) Social capital enhances the propensity for scientists to commercialize their research. The impact of social capital is particularly high for the commercialization mode of scientist entrepreneurship. 5) Technology Transfer Offices are found to be helpful for the mode of commercialization involving licenses. There is less evidence suggesting that they promote scientist entrepreneurship.6) For scientists who perceive that they are helped by their Technology Transfer Office, licensing is not only the most prevalent mode of commercialization, but it also is a substitute for entrepreneurship. For scientists who perceive that they are not helped by their Technology Transfer Office, entrepreneurship emergences as a much more important mode of commercialization and is complementary to licensing. 7) Scientists choosing the entrepreneurial route to commercialize their research, by not assigning patents to their university to commercialize research, tend to rely on the commercialization mode of entrepreneurship. By contrast, scientists who select the TTO route by assigning their patents to the university tend to rely on the commercialization mode of licensing.

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Paper provided by Max Planck Institute of Economics, Entrepreneurship, Growth and Public Policy Group in its series Papers on Entrepreneurship, Growth and Public Policy with number 2006-11.

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Length: 67 pages
Date of creation: May 2006
Handle: RePEc:esi:egpdis:2006-11
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  1. Romer, Paul M, 1986. "Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 1002-1037, October.
  2. Levin, Sharon G & Stephan, Paula E, 1991. "Research Productivity over the Life Cycle: Evidence for Academic Scientists," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 114-132, March.
  3. David B. Audretsch & Albert N. Link & John T. Scott, 2013. "Public/private technology partnerships: evaluating SBIR-supported research," Chapters,in: Public Support of Innovation in Entrepreneurial Firms, chapter 5, pages 91-104 Edward Elgar Publishing.
  4. Adam B. Jaffe & Manuel Trajtenberg & Rebecca Henderson, 1993. "Geographic Localization of Knowledge Spillovers as Evidenced by Patent Citations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 577-598.
  5. Andrew Toole & Dirk Czarnitzki, 2007. "Biomedical Academic Entrepreneurship through the SBIR Program," NBER Chapters,in: Academic Science and Entrepreneurship: Dual Engines of Growth National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Kenneth Arrow, 1962. "Economic Welfare and the Allocation of Resources for Invention," NBER Chapters,in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 609-626 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Stephan, Paula E., 2010. "The Economics of Science," Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, Elsevier.
  8. Jaffe, Adam B, 1989. "Real Effects of Academic Research," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(5), pages 957-970, December.
  9. Richard A. Jensen & Marie C. Thursby, 2004. "Patent Licensing and the Research University," NBER Working Papers 10758, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Scott Shane, 2004. "Academic Entrepreneurship," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 3155.
  11. David B. Audretsch, 1995. "Innovation and Industry Evolution," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262011468, January.
  12. Lerner, Josh, 1999. "The Government as Venture Capitalist: The Long-Run Impact of the SBIR Program," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 72(3), pages 285-318, July.
  13. Marie Thursby & Richard Jensen, 2001. "Proofs and Prototypes for Sale: The Licensing of University Inventions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 240-259, March.
  14. Lockett, Andy & Siegel, Donald & Wright, Mike & Ensley, Michael D., 2005. "The creation of spin-off firms at public research institutions: Managerial and policy implications," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(7), pages 981-993, September.
  15. Audretsch, David B & Stephan, Paula E, 1996. "Company-Scientist Locational Links: The Case of Biotechnology," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 641-652, June.
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