Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2014

Bridging Science and Technology through Academic-Industry Partnerships

by Sen Chai and Willy C. Shih

Abstract

Scientific research and its translation into commercialized technology is a driver of wealth creation and economic growth. Partnerships to foster the translational processes from public research organizations, such as universities and hospitals, to private firms are a policy tool that has attracted increased interest. Yet questions about the efficacy and the efficiency with which funds are used are subject to frequent debate. This paper examines empirical data from the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation (DNATF), an agency that funds partnerships between universities and private companies to develop technologies important to Danish industry. We assess the effect of a unique mediated funding scheme that combines project grants with active facilitation and conflict management on firm performance, comparing the likelihood of bankruptcy and employee count as well as patent count, publication count and their citations and collaborative nature between funded and unfunded firms. Because randomization of the sample was not feasible, we address endogeneity around selection bias using a sample of qualitatively similar firms based on a funding decision score. This allows us to observe the local effect of samples in which we drop the best recipients and the worst non-recipients. Our results suggest that while receiving the grant does bring an injection of funding that alleviates financing constraints, its core effect on the firm’s innovative behavior is in fostering collaborations and translations between science and technology and encouraging riskier projects rather than purely increasing patenting.

Keywords: innovation; firm performance; public-private partnership funding; translational research; small and medium enterprises; Partners and Partnerships; Public Sector; Private Sector; Performance; Science-Based Business; Innovation and Invention;

Citation:

Chai, Sen, and Willy C. Shih. "Bridging Science and Technology through Academic-Industry Partnerships." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13-058, January 2013. (Revised July 2014.)