Archived — Research Summaries: Working Paper 2008-01: Commercializing University Inventions: Are Canadians Less Productive than Americans? Evidence from Survey Data

by Ajay Agrawal

We review Canadian technology transfer trends over the past 10 years and discover that although inputs to the process of commercializing university science have increased consistently, increases in outputs have been less predictable. Inconsistent growth in patents and licensing revenues are particularly noticeable and warrant further investigation. A pair-wise comparison between one of the largest research institutions in the country (University of Toronto) and a similarly significant American counterpart (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) suggests that, at least in this particular case including normalization for research expenditures, the Canadian institution seems less efficient with respect to the commercialization of research. Moreover, regression analyses based on a sample of 160 universities from Canada and the U.S. provide more suggestive evidence that there may be a Canadian productivity discount in terms of technology transfer. Furthermore, a detailed interview with the chief executive officer of a Canadian firm that has engaged in university technology transfer in a variety of countries reveals that, from at least this firm's perspective, commercialization transactions are more efficient in the U.S. We offer some speculation based on the literature and interview for why that might be.

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