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Oscarina Conceição, Cristina Sousa and Margarida Fontes

The chapter addresses the role played by research-based spin-offs (RBSOs) as knowledge dissemination mechanisms, through their position in innovation networks. For this purpose it analyses the formal networks established by Portuguese RBSOs, in the context of publicly funded research, technology and pre-commercial product development projects, and investigates their configuration across two levels: (1) at organisational level, in order to understand whether RBSOs extend their reach beyond the academic sphere, and if they do, whether they connect to organisations located downstream in the knowledge value chain, and what is their position in networks involving both research organisations and other firms; and (2) at spatial level, in order to understand whether RBSOs extend their reach beyond the region where they are created, thus potentially acting as connectors between diverse regions. The analysis starts with the population of RBSOs created in Portugal up to 2007 (327 firms) and identifies those that have established formal technological relationships, as part of projects funded by all the relevant Portuguese programmes launched in the period 1992–2014. The analysis encompasses 237 collaborative projects and involves 92 spin-offs and 452 partners, of which only 20 per cent are research organisations, the remaining being other firms and a variety of other downstream organisations. The results provide some insights into the networking behaviour of the RBSOs. As expected, research organisations are central actors in spin-offs’ innovation networks, being the sole partner for some of them. But half of the RBSOs have moved beyond the academic sphere, often being a central element in tripartite technological relationships between research and other organisations, and occupying an intermediation position in the network, thus potentially acting as facilitators in knowledge circulation and transformation. Also, as expected, RBSOs are predominantly located in the main metropolitan areas and tend to relate with organisations similarly located. But while geographical proximity emerges as important in the choice of partners, in about half of the cases, RBSOs innovation networks have extended beyond regional boundaries. Given their central position in the network, this suggests a role as connectors across regions that will be explored in subsequent research.