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Academic Patenting in the UK. Cornelia Lawson Collegio Carlo Alberto University of Torino. ESF‐APE‐INV 3rd “Name Game” workshop Brussels, 5‐6 September 2011. Outline. Review of policies and institutional frameworks.

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academic patenting in the uk

Academic Patenting in the UK

Cornelia Lawson

Collegio Carlo Alberto

University of Torino

ESF‐APE‐INV 3rd “Name Game” workshop

Brussels, 5‐6 September 2011



Review of policies and institutional frameworks.

Review of some existing data on Academic Patenting in the UK (UNICO, HEFCE, PATVAL, CBR)

Evidence from two papers:

"Academic Patenting: Opportunity, Support or Attitude?" (Lawson, 2011)

"Who are the stars? Evidence from a sample of UK academic inventors” (Lawson and Sterzi, 2011)


BackgroundChanging Research Environment in the UK

Growing policy debate in the 1990s has led to increasing pressure to manage university IP (Lockett and Wright, 2005)

HMT/DTI Consultation Paper (1998) "Innovating for the Future: investing in R&D“ announces funding for exploitation of university research.

White Paper ”The Future of Higher Education” (2003) and HMT ” Science & innovation investment framework 2004-2014” (2004) set out goals for increased industry involvement, spin-outs and cost effective universities.

Provisions by Universities:

Establishing internal agencies for IP Protection and licensing (most TTOs founded since 1995)


BackgroundLegal Framework for Academic Patenting

No Bayh-Dole like legislation in the UK.

But: In 1948 the National Research Development Corporation was formed to commercialise inventions from public funded research (became BTG).

Strengthening the universities: “The 1997 Patents Act states that inventions of employees who may reasonably be expected to make inventions are clearly owned by their employer, so long as this is stated in an employment contract” (Lockett and Wright, 2005)


Some universities have very poorly drafted university IP regulations and/or don’t enforce them.

Patenting strategies vary considerably.

Contracts between industry and universities / academics may take precedence.


BackgroundDevelopments in Academic Patenting

  • Year of start of commercialisationactivities (Source: UNICO 2004)
  • 30% of universitiesstartedtheirTTOssince 2000
  • In 2004 80% of universitieshaveatleast 2 FTE working in TTO

BackgroundDevelopments in Academic Patenting

Number of disclosures made by HEIs (Source: HEFCE 2009)


BackgroundUniversity Patents vs. University Invented Patents

Universities only recently started to demand rights over the inventions of university researchers.

Patval Survey (Survey: 2003; Patents: 1993-1997)

Almost 80% of university invented patents are not owned by the university.

4.8% of total patent numbers by academics.

Problem: sample bias and low response rate

CBR Survey (Survey: 2009; Patents: 2005-2008)

Over 25% of academics in engineering and more than 15% of academics in biosciences patented during the 3 years.

Problem: low response rate, particularly in engineering (8%)


Our Contribution 1“Academic Patenting: Opportunity, Support or Attitude?”

Unique longitudinal data on 479 engineering academics (subsample of dataset of more than 4000 academics)

Focus on two aspects of University-Industry interaction:

Funding from industry (direct funding)

Patents by university inventors

And analyse the importance of industry funds for academic patenting.

Can industry sponsors steer researchers towards commercialisation? (Agrawal and Henderson, 2002)

Can publications still be associated to patenting once we consider grant income?


Data“Academic Patenting: Opportunity, Support or Attitude?”

Database on UK engineering academics

List of researchers in engineering from University Calendars

EPO patents matched to names and at least first initial

Filtering with 2nd/3rd initial, age, address, discipline, title etc.

Results checked against Derwent World Patent index to acquire cleaned and formatted data grouped around a base patent

For 479 academics patents were collected from UKIPO


Calendars include all academics in each department with full names or all initials

Calendars available for most universities up to 1996

Commonwealth Universities Yearbook for all years


Not all universities have calendars or are CUA members


Data“Academic Patenting: Opportunity, Support or Attitude?”

Inventors in original data (at least 6 years, 1985-2005)

21% of 4019 publishing academics are inventors, while in sample

Inventors in reduced data (479 academics)

41% are inventors

Oldest UKIPO patent from 1964

33% file a patent during observation period (1996-2007)

32% only file one patent

37% of patents are owned by universities

Industry funding in reduced data

21% of total funding (avg: 8626 GBP)

260 academics are PI on at least one grant


Our Contribution 2"Who are the stars? Evidence from a sample of UK academic inventors”

Unique data on 622 academic inventors

Focus on 3 categories of academic inventors:

Single inventors (48.5%)

One spell inventors (34%)

Stars (persistent inventors) (17.5%)

And analyse those factors that lead to persistent academic invention activity.

Is initial success encouraging continuous involvement in patenting?

Does socialisation in industry or commercial orientiation of the PhD awarding institution lower the barriers for continuous patenting? (Dietz and Bozeman, 2005; Bercovitz and Feldman, 2008)


Our Contribution 2"Who are the stars? Evidence from a sample of UK academic inventors”

The role of prolific academic (inventors)

Positive effect on firm productivity

“Companies should make effort to retain and nurture these key contributors” Narin and Breitzman (1995)

Positive effect on their peers

“Superstars are an irreplaceable source of ideas” Azoulay, Zivin and Wang (2010)

Positive effect on knowledge exchange and diffusion

“Academics exchange information with more people and across more organizations” Breschi and Lissoni (2004)


Data"Who are the stars? Evidence from a sample of UK academic inventors”

CID Database on UK academic patents

EP-INV database: names of inventors of patent applications at EPO with UK address

List of researchers in “hard sciences” from RAE 2001

Filter out incongruous matches (age and discipline)

Check for homonymy via e-mail

5005 potential academic inventors

2804 emails collected

1079 answers

622 positive (1622 patents)


RAE 2001: underestimation over number of academics

Right-censoring in 2001

Low response rate

 underestimation of academic inventors

(only 2.8% of RAE academics)




Important to find reliable source for academics’ names.

Calendars and CUA Yearbooks may be such sources

Surveys for validation are not effective (especially in the UK)

Factors effecting patenting activity:

Social imprinting is important

Dynamic process – intial success may help

Scientific ability (publications) not the best predictor