Literature has identified formal and informal channels in university technology transfer. While formal technology transfer typically involves a legal contract on a patent or on collaborative research activities, informal transfer channels refer to personal contacts and hence to the tacit dimension of knowledge transfer. Research is, however, scarce regarding the interaction of formal and informal transfer mechanisms. In this paper, we analyze whether these activities are mutually reinforcing, i.e. complementary. Our analysis is based on a comprehensive dataset of more than 2,000 German manufacturing firms. We perform direct and indirect tests for the complementarity of formal and informal technology transfer. Our results confirm a complementary relationship: using both transfer channels contributes to higher innovation performance. The management of the firm should therefore strive to maintain close informal relationships with universities to realize the full potential of formal technology transfer.
Grimpe, Christoph and Katrin Hussinger (2008), Formal and Informal Technology Transfer from Academia to Industry: Complementarity Effects and Innovation Performance, ZEW Discussion Paper No. 08-080, Mannheim, published in: Industry and Innovation. Download