Analysis of Joint Patent Applications by Universities or Public Research Institutes and Private-Sector Firms

Author Name TAMADA Schumpeter  (Faculty Fellow, RIETI) /INOUE Hiroyasu  (Doshisha University)
Creation Date/NO. February 2008 08-J-003
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The technologies used in any one product have become increasingly diverse and sophisticated, and as a result it is becoming difficult for firms to provide, in-house, the technologies and scientific knowledge required for innovation. On the other hand, collaboration between multiple organizations incurs costs for coordination. In this paper we conduct an analysis of joint applications (industry-university collaborative patents) by domestic private-sector firms and universities or public research institutes, in order to gain insights into the circumstances under these collaborations, even if the firms have to pay coordination costs. We obtain the following results. (1) An analysis of developments over past years shows that the overall number of patent applications is increasing and the number of industry-university collaborative patents is also trending upward. The proportion of the latter accounted for by patent applications filed through collaboration between multiple organizations has been on an uptrend since 1998. (2) Applications for industry-university collaborative patents are concentrated on certain fields, including those related to genetic engineering, chemistry, electronic engineering (semiconductor processing), and civil engineering. The reason for this characteristic appears to be that on the academic side there is particular strength in these fields. In fact, the distribution of the fields of these collaborative patents has tended to be closer to the distribution of the fields of academic patent applications than that of the fields of patent applications by industrial firms. (3) The more companies have been filing patent applications in numerous technical fields, the more they have been filing industry-university collaborative patents. In other words, the more companies engage in research and development in a broad range of fields, the more they need the assistance of universities and public research institutes. On the other hand, as the fields of R&D engaged in by industry grow broader, the proportion of individual companies' industry-university collaborative patents to total patents has declined. What this appears to show is that, as stated above, the number of fields of strength on the side of academia is limited, and costs are incurred by the transmission of tacit knowledge that transcends individual organizations, so industry-university collaboration is conducted in a strategic manner in a limited number of fields.