The commercialisation of university patents, a case study

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2007
Thesis identifier
  • T11816
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • The role of universities has evolved over the centuries. The most recent manifestation is the 'Entrepreneurial University' which engages with industry through various knowledge transfer practices and seeks to commercialise its research. First adopted by US universities this model has been replicated by universities in Europe, Australia and Asia. One of the consequences of this rise in the 'entrepreneurial university' has been a sharp increase in patenting by universities. However, both the number and proportion of exploited patents is small. Given the costs of patenting this represents a significant waste of resources. The primary aim of this thesis is to explain why some patents are exploited while others are not. This, in turn, involves exploring the actors who are involved in the decision to patent a scientific discovery and take it forward to exploitation. By identifying the factors that promote and hinder patent exploitation this will assist Technology Transfer Offices in deciding which inventions to patent. The study uses qualitative methods incorporating a case study approach. The patent portfolio from the University of Strathclyde is used as the case study. Interviews with six directors of technology transfer offices in universities in Scotland and England were undertaken to understand the general process of commercialisation. Two samples of patents from the University of Strathclyde's patent portfolio, one comprising patents that were commercially exploited, and the other comprising unexploited patents, were examined in order to understand the different outcomes. Exploited patents included both those that were licensed to established and those that were used to start new spin-off companies. The study finds that whether a patent is commercially exploited, and way in which it is exploited is influenced by three factors: (i) the entrepreneurs and the inventors, their characteristics and motivations. (ii) the characteristics and nature of the technologies (scope, stage) (iii) the TTOs' lack of resources and a due diligence system. The study concludes with proposals for how TTOs can enhance their decision-making process regarding which discoveries to patent in order to improve the overall effectiveness of the commercialisation process in universities.
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2007
Former identifier
  • 753938