The relationship between interdisciplinary and distinct modes of university-industry interaction

Pablo D’Este, Oscar Llopis, Francesco Rentocchini, Alfredo Yegros
Research Policy

Interdisciplinary research (IDR) has raised increasing expectations among scholars and policymakers about its potential to produce ground-breaking scientific contributions and satisfy societal demands. While existing research highlights that novel connections across fields is beneficial for scientific contributions with high academic impact, comparatively less is known about whether IDR is positively associated to scientists’ engagement with non-academic actors. To investigate this, we examine whether there is a systematic relationship between scientists’ IDR-orientation and their interactions with industry. We conceptually distinguish four stylized modes of interaction (firm creation, technology transfer, co-production and response modes) and employ three distinct indicators of IDR. We use data on 1,170 scientists affiliated to public research organizations in Spain, bibliometric dataset of scientists’ publications, and details of scientists’ past involvement in interactions with industry. Our results show that IDR has a transversal influence on all four modes. However, IDR-oriented scientists are more strongly associated to transactional (market-mediated) compared to relational (personal-based) interaction mechanisms; while we find no evidence of a significant difference between IDR-oriented scientists and their propensity to engage in different modes of U-I interaction according to the degree of goal specificity.