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SERC/Urban and Spatial Programme Discussion Paper

The Impact of University Research on Corporate Patenting


This paper analyses the association between the number of patenting manufacturing firms and the quantity and quality of relevant university research across UK postcode areas. We show that different measures of research `power' and `excellence' positively affect the patenting of small firms within the same postcode area. Patenting by large firms, in contrast, is unaffected by research undertaken in nearby universities. This confirms the commonly held view that location matters more for small firms than large firms. We also investigate specific channels of technology transfer, finding that university-industry knowledge transfer occurs through both formal and informal channels. From a methodological point of view, we contribute to the existing literature by accounting for potential simultaneity between university research and patenting of local firms by adopting an instrumental variable approach. Moreover, we also allow for the effects of the presence of universities in neighbouring postcode areas to influence firms' patenting activity by incorporating spatial neighborhood effects.


Christian Helmers and Mark Rogers

September 2010     Paper Number SERCDP0054

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