This Is What You Came For? University–Industry Collaborations and Follow-on Inventions by the Firm
Paul-Emmanuel Anckaert and Hanne Peeters
kHUB post date: March 17, 2023
Originally published: November 18, 2022 (PDMA JPIM • Vol 40, Issue 1 • January 2023)
Read time: 70 minutes
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The positive impact of university–industry collaborations on firms' innovative performance is well recognized. However, to date, the existing heterogeneity within university–industry collaboration processes and the sources of value creation underlying the resulting inventions are left underexplored. As a result, our understanding as to why some of the joint inventions resulting from such collaborations turn out to present a more fertile source of follow-on developments and value for the collaborating firm than others is limited. The present paper sheds light on this question through the application of a knowledge recombination perspective. Hence, we open the black box of innovation and put a spotlight on the knowledge components that make up the joint inventions resulting from university–industry collaborations. We evaluate how the nature—scientific versus technological—and origins—internal versus external to the collaborating partners—of these knowledge components relate to the inventive impact of the partners' joint invention. Examining a sample of 9102 USPTO co-patents, joint inventions created through university–industry collaborations are shown to be most fertile as a source of firm follow-on inventions when they are the result of a recombination process that includes technological knowledge components stemming from both collaborating partners. This effect is most pronounced when the partners' technological knowledge contributions are moderately similar. In contrast, when the joint technology development takes place in a technology domain that is novel to the firm, the resulting joint inventions are most fertile as a source of firm follow-on inventions when the university contributes through the input of technological knowledge components situated in exactly this technology domain that is novel to the firm. Remarkably, no evidence for such direct effects is found regarding the partners' scientific contributions. Together, these findings provide important insights for firms who intend to spur their internal technology development through collaboration with a university partner.