Three essays on the commercialization of university discoveries
[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] Universities commercialize their discoveries at an increasing pace in order to maximize their economic impact and generate additional funding for research. They form technology transfer offices (TTOs) to evaluate the commercial value of university inventions and choose the most promising ones to patent and commercialize. Uncertainties and asymmetric information in project selection make the TTO choices difficult and can cause both type 1 error (forgo valuable discoveries) and type 2 error (select low-value discoveries). In this dissertation, I examine the TTO's project selection process and the factors that influence the choice of academic inventions for patenting and commercialization, the type 1 error committed, and the final licensing outcome. The dissertation contains three essays. In the first essay, I analyze project selection under uncertainty when both the quality of the proposed project and the motives of the applicant are uncertain. Some inventors may have an incentive to disguise the true quality and commercial value of their discoveries in order to conform to organizational expectations of disclosure while retaining rights to potentially pursue commercialization of their discoveries outside the organization's boundaries for their own benefit. Inventors may equally, ex post, lose interest to the commercialization of their invention due to competing job demands. I develop a model to examine the decision process of a university TTO responsible for the commercialization of academic inventions under such circumstances. The model describes the conditions that prompt Type 1 and Type 2 errors and allows for inferences for minimizing each. Little is known about the factors that make project selection effective or the opposite and there has been limited empirical analysis in this area. The few empirical studies that are available, examine the sources of type 2 error but there is no empirical work that analyzes type 1 error and the contributing factors. Research on type 1 error encounters two main difficulties. First, it is difficult to ascertain the decision process and second, it is challenging to approximate the counterfactual. Using data from the TTO of the University of Missouri, in the second essay I study the factors that influence the project selection process of the TTO in and the ex post type 1 error realized. In most cases, universities pursue commercialization of their inventions through licensing. There have been a few empirical studies that have researched the factors that affect licensing and their relative importance. In the third essay, I examine the characteristics of university inventions that are licensed using almost 10 years of data on several hundred of inventions, their characteristics, and the licensing status.
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