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Commercialization of academic research. A comparison between researchers in the U.S. and Finland

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  • Nikulainen, Tuomo
  • Tahvanainen, Antti-Jussi

Abstract

This paper aims to identify factors that relate to scientists’ propensity to make commercially significant scientific discoveries (inventions) and to describe how these inventions are commercialized. Based on a large survey of academics active in different fields of science at U.S. universities, the paper benchmarks the top 20 universities against the rest, identifying the impact of different institutional settings. To highlight the institutional setting, the paper also compares these results to similar survey data from Finland, representing a small, highly educated European country. This comparison addresses the ‘European paradox’ in university technology commercialization, which is characterized by high investments in university research and disappointingly low levels of inventions and related commercialization activity. The results show that the likelihood of making commercially valuable scientific discoveries in the U.S. is driven by motivations related to the identification of commercial opportunities and working in interdisciplinary research environments. There are also significant differences between the various fields of science. In the top U.S. universities, the funding sources for scientists more likely to make inventions are more diversified and unique. The results for Finland are surprisingly similar, suggesting that the cause of the ‘European paradox’ seems to originate in the commercialization of inventions rather than their generation. When focusing on inventors who actively pursue commercial goals, both U.S. and Finnish inventors prefer licensing as the most popular way of taking scientific discoveries to the market. Consulting and entrepreneurship rank second and third, respectively. The countries differ with respect to both the inventors’ motivations to commercialize inventions and their reasons to refrain from it. In Finland, the motivations for not pursuing commercial opportunities are much more prominent than among U.S. scientists.

Suggested Citation

  • Nikulainen, Tuomo & Tahvanainen, Antti-Jussi, 2013. "Commercialization of academic research. A comparison between researchers in the U.S. and Finland," ETLA Working Papers 8, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.
  • Handle: RePEc:rif:wpaper:8
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Frank T. Rothaermel & Shanti D. Agung & Lin Jiang, 2007. "University entrepreneurship: a taxonomy of the literature," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(4), pages 691-791, August.
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    4. Tahvanainen, Antti-Jussi, 2009. "Finnish University Technology Transfer in a Whirl of Changes - a Brief Summary," Discussion Papers 1188, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.
    5. Segarra-Blasco, Agusti­ & Arauzo-Carod, Josep-Maria, 2008. "Sources of innovation and industry-university interaction: Evidence from Spanish firms," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(8), pages 1283-1295, September.
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    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    academic inventions; innovation; commercialization of research; academic entrepreneurship;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • O38 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Government Policy
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital

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