University-Industry Engagement Week

Study sees “knowledge protection effect” as way for industry research partners to better protect proprietary info

By David Schwartz
Published: June 21st, 2022

A new study from a management professor at the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business addresses the common friction between industry research partners and universities related to publishing research results, proposing the partners implement a “knowledge protection effect” strategy to guard against business rivals poaching research sponsors’ ideas.

Francisco Polidoro Jr., professor of management at the McCombs School, notes that university researchers nearly always publish the results of their research collaborations in academic journals, which often gives pause to potential company collaborators since public sharing of company data could feed information to rivals.

Polidoro’s paper, published online in Strategic Management Journal, says there’s a way to balance these competing forces – by collaborating more, with more inventors and more labs. Companies that do so can better hedge against rivals discovering company secrets while still benefiting from academic partnerships, he maintains. On the flip side, companies with low levels of inventor collaboration could be more at risk.

Frequent collaborations create a so-called “knowledge protection effect,” according to Polidoro and co-authors Curba Morris Lampert of Florida International University and Minyoung Kim of the University of Kansas. Companies with high levels of inventor collaboration are better off because when information is spread out across multiple labs, competitors have a higher hurdle to get a full picture of a company’s research-based knowledge. It’s a sound strategy for companies that want to co-publish scientific articles with universities.

“Although we tend to celebrate the benefits of collaboration, collaboration is a two-way avenue,” Polidoro said. “That’s because knowledge produced by universities becomes openly accessible. Internal collaborations can protect the knowledge of the company.”

The authors reached that conclusion after compiling a list of the 157 pharmaceutical companies that introduced a new drug into the market from 1980 to 2004, while also examining the scientific publications these companies co-authored with universities as well as successful patent applications showing how many inventors were involved in projects and the location of those inventors.

Polidoro and colleagues discovered that the pharmaceutical companies with high levels of collaboration among their inventors across locations co-authored more research papers with university scientists.

“These companies are more inclined to engage in research partnerships with universities because their knowledge is protected,” Polidoro said. “These findings can also be applied to industries outside the pharmaceutical sector. Through internal collaboration, companies can mitigate their risk while still reaping the benefits of partnering with universities in research.”

Source: UT News

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week