Impact Assessment of Innovation Policy

G. Understanding the broader policy environment for commercialisation

Over the past decades much has changed with regard to policies in support of the commercialisation of public research. Initial steps taken across OECD countries focused on setting legislative arrangements granting public institutions ownership rights over the knowledge created and establishing technology transfer offices (TTOs) in universities (OECD, 2003). The Bayh-Dole Act was implemented in the 1980s and other countries implemented reforms over the 1990s. In the early 2000s, the new system was still quite young for most public institutions across the OECD (ibid.). A recent assessment shows success has in many cases been modest (OECD, 2013).

One response to such muted impacts has been greater emphasis on embracing a wider set of policy instruments to boost commercialisation. Many tools aim at creating better linkages (such as industry-university exchange programmes, voucher programmes and cluster policies). These are potentially more effective at breaking institutional distances that often remained a challenge in simple commercialisation approaches: On the side of public research institutions, missing interactions resulted in cases in institutions applying for patents that were only of limited interest to industry, thus, limiting licensing arrangements. On the side of industry, missing interactions resulted in cases in firms showing little willingness to engage with universities in developing prototypes on the basis of university inventions, even where potential existed. Moreover, limited funding opportunities, the industry context and institutional incentives all affected success in some cases and failures in others, thus, understanding the wider policy environments becomes particularly critical.