University industry links and product innovation: cooperate or contract?

Jaider Manuel Vega Jurado, Sean Kask, Liney Manjarrés-Henriquez


The role of universities in product innovation has received considerable attention over the past decade. However, little is known about how the type of formal university-firm interaction predicts innovative performance and the degree of novelty of new products. This research differentiates two forms of firm high-relational interaction with universities: R&D contracting and cooperation. We exploit the panel structure of a dataset of 5,858 Spanish manufacturing firms with fixed-effects models. The empirical analysis finds that, although both contracting and cooperation predict product innovative performance, the two activities differ in the degree of novelty of new product outcomes. The implications are that the codified nature and asymmetric scope of R&D contracting is more suitable for exploitative innovation, resulting in product innovation that is incremental in nature. On the other hand, the possibility to exchange and create tacit knowledge and the explorative nature of R&D cooperation provide firms with the opportunity to better access the broad knowledge base of universities, leading to product innovations with a higher degree of novelty


R&D cooperation; R&D contracting; innovation; universities; product novelty

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