Public sector research - core policy instruments - university-industry linkage schemes



University-industry linkage schemes play an instrument role in turning scientific findings into new technologies and commercial applications and, reciprocally, in suggesting new scientific research directions by providing universities with new questions relevant to industry. University-industry linkage schemes can take various forms, including: university research funded by industry; faculty consulting; creation of technology transfer offices to encourage the creation of start-up companies or promote the licencing of intellectual property rights owned by universities to firms; and industry consortia to support university research.


Broadly, what activities and outcomes do university-industry linkage schemes seek to influence?

As OECD countries are moving towards knowledge-based economies, research universities respond to the growing demand for basic knowledge and highly-skilled human capital, and thereby, contribute indirectly to technological development and productivity growth. Research universities also directly support innovation by providing firms with solutions to technological problems. In many OECD countries, such direct contribution of research universities to economic development has gained in importance among policy-makers. Research universities are increasingly asked to proactively accelerate the transfer of their research findings to the market. University-industry linkage schemes typically seek to raise the direct contribution from research universities to economic development.


How do university-industry linkage schemes have an influence?

There are a number of barriers to collaboration between research universities and industry. One of the main barriers relates to their different goals. While research universities have as a central goal the understanding of natural phenomena and technologies, industry is traditionally the main locus of innovation. Despite these two different goals, there are complementarities between the activities of universities and industry that can be exploited through university-industry linkage schemes in order to boost economic development.

  • Research universities contribute to scientific advances and, hence, generate positive externalities that can be beneficial to industry for the development of innovations. University-industry linkage schemes can further accelerate the absorption of these scientific advances by firms.
  • Collaborations between universities and industry provide the latter with a unique opportunity and inexpensive way to identify and hire researchers and engineers.
  • These schemes also enable firms to better understand and monitor the scientific findings that are likely to modify current technologies and markets.
  • Industry can provide new instruments and tools to research universities that can be utilised in the context of university-industry linkage. Firms can also raise new questions to research universities that can have an impact on their research agenda.


What factors should be considered when implementing university-industry linkage schemes?

Several factors should be considered when implementing university-industry linkage schemes:

  • Culture, management, and goal alignment: while university-industry linkage schemes can bring substantial benefits to both parties, there are nevertheless potential barriers related to culture, management, and goal alignment that need to be overcome. The development of trust between universities and industry is thereby essential for successful R&D collaboration. Moreover the creation of technology transfer offices by universities can help them to develop effective relationship management with industry.
  • Institutional incentives: Research universities and industry have different institutional reward incentives which can hamper collaboration. For instance, university researchers often do not get financial reward or academic recognition from successfully collaborating with industry. Appropriate institutional incentives for university researchers to collaborate with industry may hence require modifications in traditional funding and evaluation mechanisms. In particular, university-industry linkage schemes should not negatively affect academic career progression.
  • Intellectual property rights: the case of IPR regimes in university-industry linkage schemes has raised an intense debate among university researchers, firms, and policy-makers in several OECD countries. While the former have tended to defend the principles of “open science”, policy-makers have encouraged research universities to increasingly use IPRs to accelerate knowledge transfer to the market, through the development of knowledge markets, and to finance their own research in a context where traditional PSR regimes are under budgetary pressures. As a result, industry often argues that the aggressive intellectual property policy of some research universities hamper successful R&D collaboration. Rules regulating the management of intellectual property in the context of university-industry linkage schemes should consequently be balanced, considering the interests of each party.


Further resources

Foray D. and F. Lissoni (2010), “University Research and Public-Private Interaction”, in Hall B. and N. Rosenberg (eds.), Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, Amsterdam: North-Holland.

OECD (2003), Turning Science into Business, Paris: OECD Publishing.

OECD (2002), Benchmarking Industry-Science Relationships, Paris: OECD Publishing.

Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable (1999), Overcoming Barriers to Collaborative Research: Report of a Workshop, Washington, D. C.: National Academy of Sciences.

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