The Impact of National University Reform on University Patents in Japan: Researcher Level Analysis

Author Name MOTOHASHI Kazuyuki (Faculty Fellow, RIETI) / IKEUCHI Kenta (Senior Fellow, RIETI) / KWON Seokbeom (Sungkyunkwan University)
Creation Date/NO. April 2022 22-J-017
Research Project Research on innovation ecosystem formation processes
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National universities in Japan, which used to be a part of the government, became independent agencies in April 2004. This institutional reform allows patent applications and ownership by each national university (agency) and the number of university patents has increased significantly since then. Active patenting activity at universities could facilitate commercialization of academic outcomes by licensing such outcomes to industry or university startups built on academic patents. However, there may also be negative aspects to university ownership of patents, in the form of obstacles to industrial innovation, and it is argued that academic activities are biased toward application-oriented research, as compared to basic science.

This paper addresses the impact of national university ownership of patents on the quantity and quality of university patents. Concretely, we have constructed researcher-level patent data with detail information on affiliation and a DID model is applied to see the change of patent characteristics of national university researchers after 2004. It is found that not only did the numbers of national university patents increase, but the quality, measured by forward citation counts, has improved. The increase in forward citations to national university patents mainly comes from firm citations, so it can be said that the national university reform in 2004 has achieved its objective in terms of increasing the social contributions of academic research.