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Technology transfer executives' backwards integration: An examination of interactions between university technology transfer executives and principal investigators

O’Kane, Conor

Technovation, 2018, vol. 76-77, 64-77

Abstract: This paper examines interactions between technology transfer office (TTO) executives and publicly funded principal investigators (PIs) within the university. Although both actors make important contributions to value creation at the base of the triple helix, their identities remain under development and their interactions have been the subject of little if any empirical inquiry. Drawing on identity transitions and role boundaries, we suggest that PIs’ forward integration in the innovation process and the persistence of strong role boundaries with TTO executives hinders the value-creating potential of their interactions. To examine this issue we study how TTO executives surmount role boundaries to secure effective engagement with PIs. Based on 42 interviews with (15) TTO executives and (27) PIs in New Zealand our results make a number of contributions. For literature we find that TTO executives are leveraging shared ties with funding agencies to offer assistance in the preparation of PIs’ grant applications. Specifically, our findings indicate that TTO executives are probing deeper within the university and becoming more valued at the input side of the value chain as a key intermediary between university and funding bodies than between university and industry. Notably, we find this backward integration by TTOs is timely given PIs’ perceptions that TTO executives have difficulties mastering capabilities related to their more recognized expertise in market validation, business development and industry connectivity. We discuss the implications of these findings for practice, none more so than the challenges they present for the identity work of TTO executives at the micro-foundations of the triple helix.

Keywords: Technology transfer offices; Principal investigators; Role boundaries; Value creation; Innovation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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