The present chapter deals with knowledge generation by universities, the different channels by which this knowledge is linked to private sector businesses and the way intellectual property rights (in particular, patents) may affect the link. Until the latter part of the twentieth century, universities used to play an indirect role in public–private innovation networks. This consisted in pursuing fundamental research objectives and teaching, that is, in providing the economy with human capital and basic knowledge. Both these items were regarded as having the characteristics of quasi public goods, not to be protected by intellectual property rights (IPR). However, over the past 20 years, universities’ direct involvement in innovation networks has increased (Clark, 1993). In particular, universities now provide industry and services with technical solutions or devices that may either stem from formal or informal collaboration agreements or require these agreements to be undertaken ex post for development or commercial purposes. In both cases, IPR can be established and are sometimes regarded as necessary for ex ante or ex post collaborations to be viable. Academic scientists’ involvement in IPR matters per se is not new, as it dates back at least to the nineteenth century, either in co-existence or in competition with research and teaching (Roth blatt and Witt rock, 1993). What is new is the emphasis now placed on the commercialization of inventions patented as a tool for technology transfer (Foray and Lissoni, 2010).
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