The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)


What is Different About Ag-Biotech? An Investigation of University Patenting

Jeremy D. Foltz,
Dept. of Agricultural and Resource Economics,
University of Connecticut,

While new agricultural biotechnologies, ag-biotech, have received a lot of press about how they are changing the paradigms of university research they still represent only a small part of the research output of agricultural colleges. Ag-biotech is seen as being different than other university agricultural technology research, "ag-tech," because of it having intellectual property rights, more industry linkages, and being more commercially oriented. The annual number of ag-biotech patents issued to universities grew from 25 to 30 per year in the late 1980s, to over 150 per year in the mid to late 1990s, and appears likely to continue growing at a very rapid rate. At the same time, the number of other agricultural patents, "ag-tech", has also grown, though not as spectacularly, from 25 to 30 in the late 1980's to 50 or 60 per year in the late 1990's. Despite this growth, ag-biotech patenting by universities remains relatively small in the overall research production of universities, and for some universities ag-tech patenting remains more important than ag-biotech.

This work seeks to understand the differences in patenting between ag-biotech and other agricultural technologies, ag-tech. It seeks to answer the question: is ag-biotech different from other agricultural research in terms of patent production or patent quality? It does so by estimating the difference (if any) between ag-biotech patents and ag-tech patents as measured by (i) different parameters in their production functions and (ii) different levels of patent quality as measured by numbers of citations of those patents.

The first model uses a panel count data technique to estimate a production function for each type of patent (ag-biotech and ag-tech) using the same independent variables and then performs statistical tests (both jointly and individually) on differences in parameters between the two different patent types. In this case each observation in each equation represent a university during a year and the dependent variable counts the number of patents, either ag-biotech or ag-tech. Independent variables describe inputs in the university patent production function (faculty, financing, and tech transfer personnel).

The second model of this paper estimates an equation describing patent quality as measured by the number of citations. In this case each observation is an individual patent at a single university in a single year and the dependent variable is the number of citations of that patent since it was granted. Since each observation is independent, this equation can be estimated as a single period count data model. The key independent variable of interest is a dummy variable denoting whether the patent is an ag-biotech patent or an ag-tech patent. Other independent variables are the number of years the patent has been in force, measures of the quality of the university (ranking, average faculty salary), measures of technology transfer inputs both quantity and quality.

Preliminary estimates suggest that ag-biotech and ag-tech have similar parameters in their production functions. The estimates suggest that they are of significantly different qualities, with ag-biotech patents having more citations than ag-tech patents even when one controls for university specific effects.

Home Page Program Registration Hotel accommodation Ravello and surroundings Social program