Alberto Gherardini

«Andante ma non troppo». The links of Italian universities with business activities

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: JEL Classification: I23 - Higher Education and Research Institutions; 031 - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives; O32 - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D; Z13 - Economic Sociology.

The increased importance of knowledge and the role of universities in the incubation of technology-based firms gives universities a more prominent place in economic development. Their engagement in the support to business innovation, however, is not the same in all economically developed countries. In Italy, where cooperation between universities and companies does not have a long tradition, there is a substantial shift away from the model of the university as an ivory tower. The paper argues that the propensity of Italian universities to take economic advantage of the results of research has grown in recent years and it is distributed unevenly among universities. Results from a multivariate analysis conducted on the Italian public universities show that the main factors influencing this distribution are: the amount of researchers dedicated to technological disciplines, the specialization of the local economic milieu in high-tech activities and, finally, the quality of research that fosters extra-local networks. The paper also presents the results of in-depth qualitative case studies on the role of technology transfer offices. The effectiveness of these intermediate organizations increases when officers are professionally skilled, when liaison offices are strongly endorsed by academic institutions and when their activities are reinforced by the presence of a local or regional network of intermediaries and by forward-looking and continuous public policies.

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