The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)



Economic Spillovers from University Ag-biotech Patent Production


Jeremy Foltz, Bradford Barham, Kwansoo Kim, University of Connecticut





Many land grant institutions are in the process of investing heavily in research and education efforts in agricultural biotechnology (ag-biotech) as part of an effort with state and local support to assist in developing a vibrant and proximate biotechnology sector. As Zilberman et al. (1997) suggest, the unique features of these innovations could reshape agriculture as profoundly as any other past paradigm change. One of the key differences of recent technological advances, including ag-biotech, is that publicly sponsored or supported research innovations now have intellectual property rights that produce privately appropriable spillovers. This paper seeks to address the question: what are the economic spillover effects of university ag-biotech patent production?

This research focuses on university ag-biotech patent production as a measure of economically valuable research that can be appropriated by public and private actors. It extends research by Foltz et al. (2000) on the determinants of university ag-biotech patenting to incorporate spillovers by analyzing determinants of patent citations. It improves on the standard literature by using a full panel of ag-biotech patents collected from the US Patent Office for the years 1985-1998 for all universities.

In Jaffe’s (1989) classic work on university research, he finds evidence that university research promotes industry R&D rather than vice-versa. Research on the geography of innovation and the biotech industry (Audretsch and Feldman, 1996; Audretsch and Stephan, 1996; Zucker et al., 1998) suggests that the pattern of innovation in ag-biotech will have the following features: (i) a symbiotic relationship between university research and local company research with each one fostering the other, and, (ii) geographically localized production, due to the infancy of the innovations. This work tests the existence of a symbiotic relationship between universities and ag-biotech companies using the patent citation techniques pioneered by Jaffe et al., (1993).

Our work first estimates a fixed effects panel model with count data of university patents explained by the local business neighborhood, the importance of agriculture in the state, university funding levels, and measures of university and scientist quality and quantity. These results are then inputs into a model of the determinants of spillover effects (measured as patent citations). This latter equation estimates the citations of university ag-biotech patents overall and in-state as a function of the type of patent, the number of ag-biotech businesses in the area, and the university’s technology transfer infrastructure, but controls for the probability of the university having ag-biotech patents. Our results should help to identify the extent and at least some determinants of economic spillovers associated with university ag-biotech patent production.


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Foltz, Jeremy; Bradford Barham, and Kwansoo Kim. 2000. "Universities and Agricultural Biotechnology Patent Production" Agribusiness, Vol 16. No. 1.

Jaffe, Adam. 1989. "Real Effects of Academic Research." The American Economic Review, Vol. 79, No. 5, Dec., pp. 957-970.

Jaffe, Adam, Manuel Tratjenberg, and Rebecca Henderson. 1993. "Geographic Localization of Knowledge Spillovers as Evidenced by Patent Citations." Quarterly Journal of Economics. pp. 577-598.

Zilberman, David, Cherisa Yarkin, and Amir Heiman. 1997. "Agricultural Biotechnology: Economic and International Implications." Dept. of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California-Berkeley, 1997.

Zucker, Lynne, Michael Darby and Marilynn Brewer. 1998. "Intellectual Human Capital and the Birth of U.S. Biotechnology Enterprises." American Economic Review. Vol. 88, No. 1, pp.290-306.



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