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Uncovering transfer – a cross-national comparative analysis

Anna Sinell (Center for Responsible Research and Innovation, Fraunhofer IAO, Berlin, Germany)
Vivien Iffländer (Technical University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany)
Antonia Muschner (Fraunhofer Center for Responsible Research and Innovation, Berlin, Germany)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Article publication date: 11 July 2017

Issue publication date: 2 January 2018




Successful knowledge and technology transfer (KTT) is necessary to ensure the competitiveness and growth of national innovation systems. In this regard, technology transfer offices (TTOs) are becoming indispensable in their capacity as intermediaries between science, policy, industry, and the public. The purpose of this paper is to examine the strategies and operations of particularly productive transfer offices in five different countries in order to account for the high levels of transfer activity.


To this end, the authors interviewed 34 senior KTT managers in these offices. The collected protocols were analysed in three phases. First, the authors extracted and organised the key characteristics of the transfer practices by applying rigorous method of open-end, qualitative content analysis. The authors then enhanced the thus gathered descriptive statistics and ultimately developed a transfer office typology by building on the concept of attribute space.


The analysis suggests two ideal types of transfer offices, distinguishable in terms of their intertwined characteristics such as their goals, practices, sources of income, and positions within their associated organisations. While the primarily state-funded common good type would seek benefits to the public, the self-financed entrepreneurial type would pursue commercial success. The former would therefore create opportunities for disseminating knowledge and strengthening the local innovation ecosystem, while the latter would scout for promising ideas and cultivate relationships with industry.


The goal was to uncover the individual characteristics of the offices under study, and the relationships between these characteristics, that can help explain these offices’ exceptional productivity. This study is the first to propose a TTO typology, which can support interorganisational and international transfer collaboration. The findings provide empirical evidence for the theoretical Quadruple Helix model of the innovation system and have implications for research and practice.



Sinell, A., Iffländer, V. and Muschner, A. (2018), "Uncovering transfer – a cross-national comparative analysis", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 70-95.



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