Analysing the impact of technology characteristics on university technology transfer mechanisms

Alemzadeh, Seyed Mohammad (2016) Analysing the impact of technology characteristics on university technology transfer mechanisms. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis addresses the commercialization decisions of academic scientists. Although there is a great deal of research on environmental, university and individual determinants of the formal technology transfer mechanisms, this thesis addresses a gap in the literature by studying how technology characteristics affect the selection of university technology transfer mechanisms. For this purpose the insights from main theoretical sources were combined: a) the economics of technological change and b) the diffusion of innovations theory and a conceptual framework that considers eight characteristics of technology was developed. The technology characteristics derived from the two theoretical sources are: pervasiveness, tacitness, complexity, system dependence, relative advantage, compatibility, trialability and observability. These characteristics were then related to the choice of four technology transfer mechanisms by academic scientists. The study covers UK university scientists who have been involved in commercialization between 2005 and 2015. In the first stage, qualitative data were collected through 14 semi-structured interviews. The qualitative data analysis confirmed the predictive power of most factors in the conceptual framework and six new variables were also as potential predictors: patentability, inimitability, effectiveness of patents for the technology, capital intensity, independence, and technology dynamism. In the second phase, a questionnaire was developed and the quantitative data from 331 academic inventors were used to verify the result of the qualitative study. The quantitative data analysis suggests that the technologies that lead to the formation of a new company (either through formal or informal spin-offs) are complex and academics perceive higher profitability resulting from the commercialization of the technology. More novel or more system dependent technologies lead to the formation of formal university spin-offs and the technologies that are less novel or less system dependent are more likely to be transferred to a new company via informal spin-offs or to an existing company via licensing or consulting activity. In addition, when technologies are more capital intensive or patents are more effective for protection of them from imitation, they are more likely to be transferred formally via licensing or formal university spin-offs. The data analysis also confirms that higher dynamism associated with a technology leads to the creation of informal spin-offs and less patentability of a technology significantly predicts the engagement of academics in consulting activity. The thesis concludes with implication for theory and practices.

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