Three essays on university-industry technology transfer and the economics of science

In the first chapter of this thesis, coauthored with Patrick Gaulé, we reexamine the widely held belief, known as the "European Paradox", that while European academic institutions are good at producing academic research outputs, they lag behind US academic institution when it comes to transfer these outputs to the economy. Using new survey data and controlling for standard factors affecting the productivity of Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs), we find that European TTOs do not execute less licenses than US TTOs. However, they earn significantly less revenue from licenses. We relate the difference in licensing income to differences in the organization and staffing of TTOs. Specifically, US TTOs employ more staff with experience in industry and appear to have greater flexibility in managing their budget. In the second chapter, we examine a policy regime allowing academic institutions to grant industry the intellectual property rights (IPRs) over invention resulting from collaborations. For projects that are close to the market, where a firm plays an important role in generating an invention, the researcher offers the IPRs to the firm, as an incentive to collaborate. However, he retains certain domains where he can exploit an invention without having to apply for a license. The choice of these domains involves a tradeoff. In fact, the researcher either induces the firm's effort, by assigning a broad field of use, or he ensures that he can use an invention in other applications, by granting a narrow field of use. The reverse occurs for projects that are close to the researcher's laboratory, where it is the researcher who plays an important role in generating an invention. The main difference, however, is that if effort were contractible, the firm could reward the researcher for supplying the first best level of effort, because, unlike the researcher, it is not cash constrained. An empirical analysis, based on École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne research contracts, supports the role of broad fields in bolstering a firm's effort, in projects that are close to the market. The third chapter analyzes the extent of state dependence in obtaining basic and applied science grants and the impact of receiving a grant of one type on the probability of being awarded one of the other type in the future. For this purpose, we used a sample of grants for basic and applied research purposes awarded to academic researchers at the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology. We find that, having controlled for unobserved heterogeneity, there is persistence in obtaining both basic and applied science grants. Moreover, the impact of having obtained, in the past, only grants of one type on the number of grants of the other type awarded to a researcher is not significantly different from the impact of not having received any grant.


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