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An exploratory study of retaining and maintaining knowledge in university technology transfer processes

Kristel Miller (Dundee Business School, University of Abertay, Dundee, UK)
Rodney McAdam (University of Ulster Business School, Belfast, UK)
Sandra Moffett (University of Ulster Business School, Belfast, UK)
Michael Brennan (University of Ulster Business School, Belfast, UK)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 27 September 2011




This paper focuses on the university science park incubator element of the technology transfer process where knowledge in a variety of forms needs to be retained and maintained. The aim is to investigate the networking competencies of stakeholders involved in the university technology transfer process using absorptive capacity theory to explore how knowledge is externally retained and maintained through these network relations.


This paper undertakes an inductive theory building approach using in‐depth multiple stakeholder interviews (n=30). The transcripts and results were analysed using open coding and NVivo. Six technology transfer meetings were also observed.


The findings show that developing and maintaining network relationships can significantly aid the development and retention of knowledge within the university technology transfer process. It was found that conscious effort is made to retain relationships with network stakeholders. Prior knowledge, partner knowledge complementarity and reciprocity, resulting in collective learning, were found to motivate stakeholders to engage in external knowledge retention strategies. The results also supported suggestions in previous literature that relative capacity is an antecedent for absorptive capacity within organisations.

Research limitations/mplications

The paper helps in establishing a research agenda for knowledge retention in technology transfer where traditionally the emphasis has been on development of knowledge. The absorptive capacity framework provides a consistent theoretical basis for exploring the role of stakeholders in this area.


The paper focuses on how knowledge can be retained in technology transfer settings rather than being restricted to that of development. The use of the absorptive capacity framework has also enabled the concept of relative capacity to be developed within the research giving much needed empirical investigation into its relevance and feasibility.



Miller, K., McAdam, R., Moffett, S. and Brennan, M. (2011), "An exploratory study of retaining and maintaining knowledge in university technology transfer processes", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 17 No. 6, pp. 663-684.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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