Universities are key to economic development in regions. Thus, knowledge transfer, recognised as the third mission for universities, becomes a fundamental element of development, since it facilitates the transferral of the knowledge generated to the economic fabric.
The development of the third mission by universities through the promotion of evaluation processes for research results and public-private collaboration in R+D are an example of the universities’ commitment to society. The principle available indicators associated with knowledge transfer are related to the protection of patent knowledge via the creation of technology-based companies or spin-offs and R+D+I contracts. These indicators allow us to visualise an important part of the universities’ effort to promote the third mission.
The first indicator shown in this chapter is the number of priority patent requests. In 2014, Catalan universities presented 96 requests for priority patents. This is a 14% increase in comparison with 2013, and remains at the same level as 2009.
The second indicator shows the international patent extensions through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which is the most usual route. It can be observed that there is a slight increase in comparison with 2013, with a total of 72 extensions. It should be noted that international extensions represent a significant percentage of priority requests, which is an indication of their quality.
With respect to spin-offs, there were 113 in 2015. These figures makes it clear that universities are continuing to promote the creation of technology-based enterprises as a means of knowledge transfer and wealth generation for the region. The number of active spin-off companies has continued to rise over the last five years. Also, the 90 university-business-society chairs, often linked to research, should be taken into account, which have also encouraged knowledge transfer.
In 2014, Catalan universities generated 24% of the income for knowledge transfer activities in comparison with all universities in the Spanish state.
Catalan universities, along with the private sector, have continued to promote scientific and technologic parks and knowledge transfer. These efforts have translated into a slight increase in the number of innovatory businesses, technological centres, and incubator businesses that have been established.
In the area of knowledge transfer and university-business partnerships, it must be highlighted that the amount of non-competitive funds attracted by the ACUP universities and associated bodies (research institutes and technology centres) maintained a slight upward curve from 2013, with an aggregated total of €90.5m annual in funds.