Technology

Social Transfers

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Science  23 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6148, pp. 821
DOI: 10.1126/science.341.6148.821-b
CREDIT: © PROEHL STUDIOS/CORBIS

Under pressure to demonstrate economic returns on public investments in research, universities often point to evidence that the knowledge they generate can spill over and stimulate regional economies that are based, at least in part, on innovation. Yet, despite studies of technology transfer practices, university funding, and other factors, there is much to be learned about why places that aspire to become the next Silicon Valley might not attain their dreams. Casper examines regional social networks in which universities are embedded as potential modulators of the economic impact of research. He compared biotechnology communities in the San Francisco and Los Angeles regions, both of which include multiple universities that share similar characteristics. Whereas San Francisco attracted only 30% more research funding than Los Angeles over a 25-year period, Bay Area universities obtained more than twice as many biotech patents and spun out three times as many biotech firms. By tracking which people were linked as co-inventors on patent applications, Casper found that social networks were larger and more cohesive in San Francisco than in Los Angeles, spanning universities and firms, with upticks in network size and connectivity over time correlating with growth in patenting. This work suggests that community social networks can modulate the ability of universities to transmit and receive knowledge benefits.

Res. Policy 42, 10.1016/j.respol.2013.04.005 (2013).

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