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Universities and their Involvement in Industrial Innovation as seen through Academic Patents

Conference paper
Authors Evangelos Bourelos
Maureen McKelvey
Olof Zaring
Published in The 15th Globelics Conference, Athens, Greece, 11-13 October, 2017
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Economy and Society, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE)
Language en
Keywords academic patents; innovation; technology; universities
Subject categories Economics and Business


Incomplete data can lead to faulty conclusions within social science. This matters in a larger perspective because data and subsequent conclusions form the basis for decision-making in public policy. Academic patents represent reasonably reliable and good data, in the sense that one can systematically examine patents across many variables such as countries, time periods and technological fields. As a measure of either invention or innovation, patents of course have both advantages and disadvantages, as acknowledged by many leading authors (Henderson et al., 1998, Jaffe and Lerner, 2001, Pries and Guild, 2011, Zucker et al., 2002). A recent systematic literature review has found that the topic of academic patents in the broader understanding of university-industry interactions has exploded in recent years, with high levels of citations (Bourelos, 2013). In the case of Sweden, the data about academic patents needs to be carefully collected and checked, which is why new databases must be constructed. Sweden has an institutional framework called the ‘teachers’ exception’ or ‘professor’s privilege’, which means that the individual – and not the university – holds intellectual property rights (IPR). Working with colleagues abroad, our research group has developed novel databases through a series of European projects during the last decade . The two most reliable databases that we developed for Sweden are from 2005 and 2011, where construction of the first one was initially part of an MSc thesis while the completion of the latter one is part of a PhD thesis (Bourelos, 2013, Cropelli, 2006). This paper is presenting a map of academic patenting in Sweden. These descriptive statistics allow us to assess the academic performance in Sweden and will highlight the fields and universities where academics patent. We are therefore able to identify possible areas of competitive advantage for Sweden when comparing the figures with academic patenting in other countries. At the micro level, this paper will contribute in completing the picture of the academic inventor in Sweden. The statistics of this chapter can be interesting for academics who study academic entrepreneurship, policy makers who are interested in motivating third mission activities, as well as firms who are seeking collaboration with academic inventors. The empirical overviews and results can be seen as revolutionizing what we think we know – because the new databases help us challenging many stereotypes and myths about Sweden. This chapter provides two types of data in the overview: namely, data that compares Sweden to Italy, France and the USA based upon data from 2005 as well as novel data from the recent completion of the database for 2011. This chapter presents an overview of academic patents in Sweden, by defining academic patents as patents where individual scientists and engineers working at universities and engineering faculties are involved as inventors.

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