2019 EC-OECD STIP Survey: Science-industry knowledge transfer and sharing policy area


  1. Key messages
  2. Main national policy debates
  3. Snapshot of policy initiative data
  4. Annex A: Raw data for national policy debates

1. Highlights

National debates often point to intellectual property (IP) rights regimes as a critical framework condition for the public research system and the private sector to work together, e.g. to effectively commercialise or licence public research results or facilitate co-ownership of research outputs.
The largest share of policy initiatives supports collaborative research and innovation, promoting partnerships or other forms of collaborative projects between the public and private sectors. Accordingly, initiatives jointly target public research organisations and firms.
Knowledge intermediaries, such as technology transfer offices, are also frequently targeted by policies. At times initiatives try to leverage them to establish or strengthen technology clusters.
Countries use a heterogeneous mix of policy instruments to promote joint research, establish networks coordinating on R&D activities, support technology extension services and regulate and incentivise the use of IP.

2. Main national policy debates

Countries indicated the main policy debates around government support to Science-industry knowledge transfer and sharing in their response to the 2019 EC-OECD STIP survey (raw data included below in Annex A). A number of salient patterns can be identified from these responses:

Various European countries highlight knowledge transfer as a core goal of within some of their national strategies, agendas and plans. The United Kingdom’s Industrial Strategy, for example, considers increasing university-business collaboration as critical to raise R&D intensity to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. Discussions around Portugal's Strategy Portugal 2030 included the development of scientific knowledge for different business segments and mobilising actors for research and innovation impact, among other topics related to knowledge transfer. Estonia’s new R&D and Innovation (RDI) strategy places strong focus on building the capacity of knowledge transfer and on improving business-university linkages, including strengthening the technology transfer offices in universities, developing innovation services and providing additional funding schemes for technology-intensive start-ups. In developing its new Research, Technology and Innovation (RTI) 2030 strategy, Austria tasked one of five thematic working groups with the topic of applied research and impact on economy and society, indicating that knowledge transfer will be an important component of the strategy. Moreover, the European Union’s Horizon Europe will give emphasis to the exploitation and valorisation of research results by introducing associated criteria in the rules for participating in and implementing the framework programme.

A few countries, including Korea, Brazil, and Slovak Republic, stressed a mismatch between supply and demand of knowledge as an important obstacle for science-industry technology transfer. Besides this, the main framework condition cited in national debates as critical to improve knowledge transfer is the intellectual property (IP) rights regime. In particular, whether it facilitates public research organisations and firms to conduct joint research, and if it suppors the co-ownership, commercialisation or licencing of public research results. Various countries, such as Norway, Sweden and South Africa recognise deficiencies in their IP regimes, whereas others point towards major initiatives seeking to strengthen them. Canada’s Intellectual Property Strategy, for example, will launch a number of IP resources and legislation that is expected to make it easier for business to look for university-owned IP. Ireland’s Innovation 2020 strategy supports the creation of an intellectual property regime that encourages the creation of proprietary knowledge and its diffusion. China aims to promote mixed ownership of IP stemming from joint scientific and technological achievements.

Countries also promote the adoption of open innovation, open science and enhanced access to research data as a means to foster knowledge transfer. For instance, one of Germany’s 12 missions of the High-Tech Strategy 2025 is about new sources for new knowledge, focusing on opportunities offered by open access, open science, open data and open innovation. In Austria, open innovation is a cross-sectional topic in its new RTI strategy, whereas its 2016 Open Innovation Strategy provides a vision towards opening up the innovation system (including science-industry links). Canada’s 2018-2020 National Action Plan on Open Government implements open science initiatives encouraging greater scientific openness and research accessibility for the benefit of society at large. In Norway, by contrast, there have been concerns around the requirement for articles funded by its Research Council to be published with open access as of 2020. Critics argue that this hinders researchers from publishing in the most prestigious journals, with negative consequences for research quality.

In parallel to setting up strategies and improving framework conditions, countries also debate the promotion of knowledge transfer using public investment. Two main types of measures can be identified from the responses submitted by countries: (i) setting up and strengthening knowledge intermediaries and (ii) funding science-industry collaborative research.

Regarding knowledge intermediaries, most countries refer to supporting science and technology parks, incubators, accelerators and, particularly, technology transfer offices (TTOs). Hungary, for instance, established the Science, Innovation, Technology and Industrial Park Network in order to achieve fully integrated cooperation between industry, research and academia. Thailand continues to support its science parks as a bridge between public research organisations and industry leveraging an established R&D infrastructure, business acceleration programs and supporting mechanisms such as IP legal services and market access services. China’s National Technology Transfer Demonstration Agency continues to explore new mechanisms and new models of technology transfer services based on market demand. Several countries, including Estonia, Israel and Slovenia identify a need strengthen their TTO ecosystem and developing related services (e.g. project management, IP support). Lithuania created the Research and Technology Organisation, an association with the country’s leading research centres that seeks to consolidate the country’s potential in applied research. Argentina and Portugal highlight the launch of web-based platforms that enable directories of research actors and allow easy access to their competence profiles, outputs and activities.

Concerning funding science-industry collaborative research, countries often support this type of applied research in a number of ways. Australia and Estonia have added knowledge transfer metrics into their formulas for calculating the basic (block) funding of public research organisations. Austria has added similar criteria and conditions to performance agreements. Other countries fund specific projects, the majority of which through joint research grants or by supporting academic spin-offs (these are discussed in more detail below in Section 3).

Addressing the topic of human resources, Norway and Portugal emphasised the need for a highly qualified labour force, capable to lead interactions between research and companies, commercialise research results and adopt new technologies. In this regard, other responses raised researcher insertion in the private sector as an important policy objective. Finland, France, Italy and South Africa, among others, have established industrial PhD programmes or identified a need to increase the insertion of graduates to businesses.

It is noteworthy that countries at times orient these programmes towards specific business sectors and technologies. Greece, for example, launched a number of initiatives in Aquaculture, New Industrial Materials and Cultural Heritage, which are considered strategic for its economy. Thailand’s Food Innopolis is a platform promoting knowledge transfer in the local food and food-related sectors through a package of measures. France, Germany and Italy have initiated trilateral cooperation to promote the digitisation of the manufacturing sector and to support the European Union's efforts in this area. The cooperation brings together the implementing bodies of the national strategies for Industry 4.0 in the three countries: Plattform Industrie 4.0 for Germany, Alliance Industrie du Futur for France, and the Piano Impresa 4.0 for Italy. Israel’s Bioconvergence Strategic Plan, aims to reinforce incentives for university researchers to engage in applicative research that may benefit the industry in the biotechnology and nanotechnology sectors.

3. Snapshot of policy initiative data

Within the Science-industry knowledge transfer and sharing policy area, the largest share of reported policies address three themes (Figure 1). Collaborative research and innovation is the one most recurrently addressed, gathering programmes that promote partnerships or other forms of collaborative projects between the public and private sectors. Secondly is the Cluster policies theme, including initiatives supporting thematic and/or place-based clusters (e.g. provision and implementation of networking infrastructures and financial support or incentives). The third most frequent theme is Commercialisation of public research results, which includes policies supporting the transfer of academic inventions via the sale, transfer or licensing of intellectual property, often on an exclusive basis, to existing firms or new ventures.

Bokeh Plot

Figure 2 shows that science-industry policies have similar numbers of public research organisations and firms as target groups. Private R&D labs are addressed by relatively a lower number of policies (by almost half). Besides organisations and firms, individual public research actors are also frequently cited, i.e. Established researchers and Post-docs and other early-career researchers for their roles in knowledge transfer and commercialisation policies (see keywords by hovering the corresponding bars with the mouse). These actors, together with Entrepreneurs are also often addressed in academic spin-off policies. Several policies also target intermediaries, which support science-industry linkages, such as Incubators, accelerators, science parks and techno parks, Technology transfer offices and Industry associations. These are often highlighted by smart specialisation strategies.

Bokeh Plot