The academic research system shows a significant increase in the generation of new patents, but the capacity to transfer these patents to firms interested in their economic exploitation is still limited. It is therefore interesting to investigate the factors affecting firms' involvement in the academic research that could lead to patentable results. Drawing on data from a sample of 282 patents from academic inventors of seven Italian universities, this paper focuses on four possible drivers of university-industry collaboration: a) the quality of the academic inventors' basic research; b) their propensy for the applied research; c) the innovative capability of the regional industrial system; d) the existence of local technology clusters. The results suggest that factors relating to the local industrial environment play a significant role in favoring firms' involvement in academic patents. In addition, a greater propensity of the researchers to applied research attracts firms' interest, while the quality of the basic research does not seem to affect firms' decisions to collaborate.