Academic institutions are an important component of the public agricultural research system in many countries. According to the "open science" model of research, these institutions produce new knowledge, methods, and materials that are disclosed and disseminated through channels such as journal publications to become part of the stock of public knowledge in agriculture. In turn, this stock of knowledge is expected to yield social returns by facilitating invention in the private and public sectors and ultimately improving agricultural productivity.
Prior research finds that the stock of public knowledge in “pre-technology” science fields such as entomology contribute directly to long-run agricultural productivity in the U.S. These studies also show a direct effect of private sector patented inventions on agricultural productivity. However, the potential link between the stock of public knowledge and private invention is left unexplored. Private sector scientists may use public agricultural science to help overcome problems or to suggest completely new research projects. This would be an additional, but intermediate, channel connecting the public stock of knowledge to agricultural productivity. In the present study, we identify connections between the stock of public knowledge and private firms and examine whether the degree of "connectedness" to public science is associated with greater firm-level research productivity in agriculture. Using a sample of US universities and large R&D performing public firms, connections between the stock of public knowledge and private R&D are identified using citations by firms to journal publications in agricultural science and public-private coauthored papers. This bibliographic information is combined with data on agricultural patenting and firm-level R&D investment to analyze how "connectedness" through either linkage influences research productivity using a panel of US companies covering the years 1986 to 1998. The descriptive results show that annual scientific publications in US agriculture remained roughly unchanged for 1981-1999, in contrast to the relatively rapid growth in other life science fields. Moreover, agricultural science exhibits an uneven pattern of use by US private firms, with eleven "top" users accounting for 72% of all citations. The regression analysis, which focuses on firms in the chemical and allied products sector, shows that more connectedness to the stock of public knowledge in agriculture is associated with greater agricultural research productivity. On average, an additional citation to external agricultural science is associated with a 0.5% increase in agricultural patents while an additional coauthorship is associated with a 4.5% increase in agricultural patents.
Toole, Andrew and John L. King (2011), Industry-Science Connections in Agriculture: Do Public Science Collaborations and Knowledge Flows Contribute to Firm-level Agricultural Research Productivity?, ZEW Discussion Paper No. 11-064, Mannheim.