Who is selling the ivory tower? Sources of growth in university licensing


Historically, commercial use of university research has been viewed in terms of spillovers. Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in technology transfer through licensing as universities attempt to appropriate the returns from faculty research. This change has prompted concerns regarding the source of this growth—specifically, whether it suggests a change in the nature of university research. We develop an intermediate input model to examine the extent to which the growth in licensing is due to the productivity of observable inputs or driven by a change in the propensity of faculty and administrators to engage in commercializing university research. We model licensing as a three-stage process, each involving multiple inputs. Nonparametric programming techniques are applied to survey data from 65 universities to calculate total factor productivity (TFP) growth in each stage. To examine the sources of TFP growth, the productivity analysis is augmented by survey evidence from businesses who license-in university inventions. Results suggest that increased licensing is due primarily to an increased willingness of faculty and administrators to license and increased business reliance on external R&D rather than a shift in faculty research.

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