The relationships between university IP regimes, scientists’ motivations and their engagement with research commercialisation in Europe

Peter Van Dongen, Alfredo Yegros, Robert Tijssen, Eric Claassen


Many policy makers regard Technology Transfer Offices as a vehicle for Intellectual Property regimes and a main driver for research commercialisation. The involvement of scientists in the process of research commercialisation is often taken for granted.  National regulations can determine the IP regimes at universities and their decisions about the ownership of scientific research results. This paper describes the relationships between four university IP regimes and identifies three driving forces, which motivate individual scientists to engage with the commercialisation of their own research, and the real involvement of scientists with research commercialisation. A representative survey of approximately 2,660 scientists working in all disciplines at some 150 universities in 30 European countries, covering a time frame from 2010 till 2015, shows that around 32% of the scientists are engaged in various pathways of research commercialisation.

We found significantly higher percentages of scientists who are involved in research commercialisation at universities that hold IP ownership on research results and that have obligatory Technology Transfer Office services. The individual driving forces are positively associated with significantly higher levels of engagement with research commercialisation, double the amount of patenting and a threefold higher involvement with spin-off companies. Involvement with a spin-off formation was only positively correlated with scientists-related driving forces, not with the intellectual property regime of the university where they work. We conclude that the driving forces of scientists and university IP regimes are both factors that can contribute to increased levels of research commercialisation. Our data suggest that the former factor is by far the more important.   

Keywords: Intellectual property regimes; individual motivation; research commercialisation; patents; spin-offs

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