New Insights into University Technology Transfer Performance: The Case of Australian Universities

Rashed Alhomayden
University of Queensland

Ross T. Barnard
University of Queensland

Sarel Gronum
University of Queensland

• Introduction and aim: The literature on university technology transfer is abundant; however, previous studies have not established a relationship between the organisational structure of University Technology Transfer Offices (UTTOs) and their performance. Also, most of the previous studies on university technology transfer productivity and efficiency have not made a theoretical contribution to the field which might have limited the generalisability of their findings and hindered the progress of the field. In this study, we will adopt the Resource-Based Theory (RBT) to examine and explain performance differences between universities in technology transfer considering four resource factors in relation to the organisational structure of UTTOs. The resource factors chosen were centralisation, specialisation, configurational autonomy and financial dependence.
• Research methodology: The study used a deductive, quantitative approach. Using primary and secondary data, we have regressed the chosen resource factors against six university technology transfer performance measures, namely the number of invention disclosures, the number of filed patents, the number of executed licenses, the amount of licensing royalty income, the number of all spin-offs created and the number of spin-offs created with university equity.
• Empirical results and implications: Our empirical findings show that decentralised UTTOs file more patents, execute more licenses and establish more spin-offs than centralised UTTOs. In relation to specialisation, we have only found a positive association between the level of UTTO specialisation and the number of invention disclosures. We also found that highly autonomous UTTOs receive more invention disclosures, file more patents and execute more licenses than non-autonomous UTTOs. Interestingly, we found that financially independent UTTOs receive fewer invention disclosures, execute fewer licenses but receive more licencing royalty income, establish more spin-offs with or without university equity than financially dependent UTTOs.
• Conclusion: These findings have many implications for policy-makers and university management. The empirical results of the study indicate that a one-office-per-university model is not related to better university technology transfer performance since a decentralised, autonomous, financially independent UTTO is linked with better performance. Therefore, for efficiency purposes, the study recommends outsourcing IP-related activities of UTTOs to regional, autonomous, IP-specialised TTOs. UTTOs should continue supporting research and consultancy related functions, and they should act as an intermediary between university researchers and the regional TTO for IP-related activities.