Recent decades have witnessed the emergence and widespread growth of new organizational forms to conduct R&D, which we refer to as research partnerships. These partnerships involve firms, universities, non-profit organizations, and public agencies. The growth in such alliances can be attributed to the expansion of public-private partnerships, relaxation of antitrust enforcement to promote collaborative research, policies designed to stimulate more rapid diffusion of technologies from universities to firms, and growth in venture-capital investment in high technology start-ups. These alliances constitute potential sources of R&D spillovers and economic growth, as illustrated in Figure 8.2 and in Table 8.4, and thus, have important policy implications.
Examples of research partnerships in the United States are research joint ventures (RJVs), strategic alliances, strategic networks, industry consortia, cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs) between federal laboratories and firms, National Science Foundation-sponsored Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) and industry-university cooperative research centers (IUCRCs), federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs). These alliances also include various dimensions of university technology transfer, such as licensing and sponsored research agreements, science parks, university-based entrepreneurial start-ups, co-authoring between academics and industry scientists, faculty consulting, and educational partnerships involving universities and firms.
Note that by example we have defined research partnerships quite broadly. Some of each type of these alliances have gained in prominence in the new economy, with its greater emphasis on intellectual property, venture capital, entrepreneurial start-ups, and university-industry technology transfer (UITT). As described in Siegel et al. (1999), the recent increase in UITT, through a university technology transfer office (TTO) and other formal means, has led to a concomitant increase in the incidence and complexity of research partnerships involving universities and firms. The authors also reported that universities have become much more receptive to the idea of accepting an equity position in an entrepreneurial start-up, in lieu of up-front licensing revenue, thus signaling that the boundaries of university activity are expanding.