Full citation

Landry, R., Saïhi, M., Amara, N. & Ouimet, M. (2010). Evidence on how Academics Manage Their Portfolio of Knowledge Transfer Activities. Research Policy, 39(10), 1387-1403.

Format: Peer-reviewed article

Type: Research — Quasi-experimental

Experience level of reader: Fundamental

Annotation: This paper explores a sample of Canadian academics/researchers working in the fields of physics, mathematics and statistics, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, and life sciences to see whether any of six categories of knowledge transfer activity (publishing, teaching, informal knowledge transfer, getting granted patents, engaging in spinoff formation and consulting services) exhibit complementarity (doing more of one knowledge transfer activity increases the returns to doing more of another knowledge transfer activity), substitution (doing more of one knowledge transfer activity reduces the performance of another activity) or independence (changes in one knowledge transfer activity do not change the performance of other knowledge transfer activities). It also investigates the conditions under which complementarity, substitution or independence effects are likely to emerge.

Setting(s) to which the reported activities/findings are relevant: University

Knowledge user(s) to whom the piece of literature may be relevant: Researchers

Knowledge user level addressed by the literature: Individual

This article uses the Commercial Devices and Services version of the NtK Model

Primary Findings

Barriers:

  • Factors that may negatively influence the likelihood that an academic/researcher will engage in the provision of consulting services include, reliance on university internal funding (as opposed to private funding), and when they are active in computer sciences (rather than in life sciences) — based upon an examination of six fields, physics, mathematics and statistics, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, and life sciences.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 4.6
  • Factors that may negatively influence the likelihood that an academic/researcher will patent their work include, reliance on internal university funding (as opposed to private funding), and a research focus in the fields of physics, earth sciences, mathematics and statistics (as opposed to life sciences) — based upon an examination of six fields, physics, mathematics and statistics, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, and life sciences.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 4.4

Carriers:

  • Factors that may positively influence the likelihood that an academic/researcher will patent their work include, a rise in the experience, reliance on private funding (as opposed to internal university funding), increased novelty of their research (significant changes in materials or production techniques), increased network assets, greater size of their research unit, and when they are affiliated with large research universities (rather than small and medium ones) — based upon an examination of six fields, physics, mathematics and statistics, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, and life sciences.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 4.4
  • Factors that may positively influence the likelihood that an academic/researcher will create a spin-off company include: increased novelty of the research (significant changes in materials or production techniques), increased network assets, greater research unit size, greater experience, affiliation to the engineering field (rather than to the life sciences field), affiliation to the computer sciences field (rather than to the life sciences field), affiliation to large research universities (rather than small and medium ones), and being a man (rather than a woman) — based upon an examination of six fields, physics, mathematics and statistics, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, and life sciences.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 4.6
  • Factors that may positively influence the likelihood that an academic/researcher will engage in informal knowledge transfer (fostering the flow of knowledge through informal communication processes) include: private funding, network assets, research unit size, experience, affiliation to the engineering field (rather than the life sciences field), and being a man (rather than a woman) — based upon an examination of six fields, physics, mathematics and statistics, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, and life sciences.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 3.8
  • Complementarities (when doing more of one knowledge transfer activity increases the returns to doing more of another knowledge transfer activity) — typically exist between pairs of knowledge transfer activities, such as, publications and patenting, publications and spin-off creation, publications and consulting, publications and informal knowledge transfer (fostering the flow of knowledge through informal communication processes). Publications, patenting, spin-off creation, consulting and informal knowledge transfer have also been found to exhibit complementarities.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
  • Factors that may positively influence the likelihood that an academic/researcher will engage in the production of scientific papers include, being in the fields of engineering, computer sciences and earth sciences (rather than in life sciences), and by being an assistant or an associate professor (rather than a full professor) — based upon an examination of six fields, physics, mathematics and statistics, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, and life sciences.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 3.8
  • Complementarities (when doing more of one knowledge transfer activity increases the returns to doing more of another knowledge transfer activity) benefits accrue from economies of scope. Economies of scope may help academics/researchers by reducing their costs associate with knowledge transfer activities by becoming more efficient, through jointly coordinating multiple knowledge transfer activities. This can lead to more efficient utilization of resources, sharing them across multiple knowledge transfer activities. It may also occur when they leverage the outputs of one knowledge transfer activity over multiple knowledge transfer activities and/or share their expert knowledge and skills across multiple knowledge transfer activities.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
  • If research policy makers and university research administrators acknowledge the potential impacts of complementarity (when doing more of one knowledge transfer activity increases the returns to doing more of another knowledge transfer activity), substitution (when doing more of one knowledge transfer activity reduces the performance of another activity) and independence (when changes in one knowledge transfer activity do not change the performance of other knowledge transfer activities), they may adjust their funding and evaluation practices to compensate for these occurrences and in doing so, promote the enhancement of academic/researcher performance — thereby strengthening return on investment and overall outcomes.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
  • Factors that may positively influence the likelihood that an academic/researcher will engage in the provision of consulting services include, reliance on private funding (as opposed to internal university funding), increases in their network assets, increases in the size of their research unit, affiliation with large research universities (rather than small and medium ones), and when they are in engineering (rather than in life sciences) — based upon an examination of six fields, physics, mathematics and statistics, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, and life sciences.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 4.6
  • Factors that may positively influence the likelihood that an academic/researcher will engage in informal knowledge transfer (fostering the flow of knowledge through informal communication processes) include: affiliation in the fields of chemistry, computer sciences, and physics, mathematics and statistics (rather than with life sciences) — based upon an examination of six fields, physics, mathematics and statistics, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, and life sciences.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 3.8
  • Complementarities (when doing more of one knowledge transfer activity increases the returns to doing more of another knowledge transfer activity) — among patenting activities, spin-off formation, consulting, informal knowledge transfer and publications have been demonstrated to emerge under four conditions: financial conditions linked to private funding, attributes of knowledge assets linked to the degree of novelty of research findings, network assets, and organizational assets linked to the size of research units and the research intensity of universities.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
  • Factors that may positively influence the likelihood that an academic/researcher will engage in the production of scientific papers include, reliance on internal funding, novelty of research (significant changes in materials or production techniques), research unit size, experience, affiliation with the field of chemistry (rather than to life sciences), affiliation with large research universities (rather than small and medium ones), and being a man (rather than a woman) — based upon an examination of six fields, physics, mathematics and statistics, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, and life sciences.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 3.8

Tips:

  • One way to look at academic/researcher knowledge transfer activities is to group them into portfolios. Representative portfolios might include: 1) complementary activities which are interdependent and reinforce each other — publications, patenting, spin-off creation, consulting and informal knowledge transfer 2) substitutive activities which imply a choice of one over the other — teaching or publishing 3) independent activities which do not seem to impact each other — a teaching, patenting, spin-off creation, consulting and informal knowledge transfer.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
  • Complementarities (when doing more of one knowledge transfer activity increases the returns to doing more of another knowledge transfer activity) — draw into question the validity of “best practices” which postulate performance enhancement that is independent of the context of their use.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
  • Substitutions (when doing more of one knowledge transfer activity reduces the performance of another activity) — may be implicated between teaching and publishing.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
  • Independence (when changes in one knowledge transfer activity do not change the performance of other knowledge transfer activities) — may be present between teaching and patenting, spin-off creation, consulting and informal knowledge transfer.
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.
  • Complementarities (when doing more of one knowledge transfer activity increases the returns to doing more of another knowledge transfer activity) demonstrate to the complexities of knowledge transfer, where interdependent and mutually reinforcing activities can lead to the enhancement of knowledge transfer performance of academics/researchers. Complementarities may trigger a virtuous cycle in which publications produce knowledge, expertise and skills that are redeployed into informal knowledge transfer activities, thereby augmenting the knowledge base that academics have about knowledge users in firms and other organizations, which, in turn, enhances the ability of academics to get involved successfully in commercial knowledge transfer activities such as patenting, spin-off creation and consulting. In turn, formal commercial knowledge transfer activities give rise to a mutual informal exchange of knowledge between academics and knowledge users that increases the knowledge base, expertise and skills that enhance the ability of academics to become more successful in publishing and informal knowledge transfer. It may be that virtuous circle emerge only when multiple forms of knowledge transfer activities occur simultaneously because it requires the exchange of codified and non-codified knowledge between academics and knowledge users
    How academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities.

Secondary Findings

Barrier: Novelty of research (significant changes in materials or production techniques) can have a negative and significant impact on informal knowledge transfer (fostering the flow of knowledge through informal communication processes) — by increasing the distance between finalizing research results and their application. (Landry [2007a])

Carriers:

  • The publication record of academics is strongly influenced by their funding structure. (Gaughan [2002]; Landry [2006, 2007a]; Lee [2005])
  • Patenting and spin-off creation are also strongly influenced by the funding structure of knowledge transfer activities. (Azagra-Caro [2006]; Baldini [2007]; Breschi [2008]; Krabel [2009]; Landry [2007b]; O’Shea [2005])