EPO Academic Research Programme

University Research funding, Patenting and Technological Impact

The project was financed by the Academic Research Programme of the European Patent Office (EPO) under grant no. 2018/8401. Further information on the initiative are available on the EPO website.


The project aims at analysing the effects of public research funding to universities on subsequent patent activity. It will undertake two different lines of research. The first and prominent one aims at assessing the relationship between the magnitude of funding received through the European Union (EU) Framework Programmes (FPs) and the patenting activity of European universities. The second, and more experimental line of research will analyse the impact of funding on subsequent patents (both directly produced and indirectly affected), focusing on a specific research funding scheme, and collecting data at the level of awarded research project.

The findings of this study will contribute on several streams of the existing scientific literature on the economic effects of public funding for science and research, on the assessment of the impact of research grants, on the determinants of university patenting and commercialization activities.

The project builds on the generation and the analysis of a new original dataset that will integrate data at European level from different sources:

i) Collection of all the EPO patent filings from a sample of 500 Universities and Higher Education Institutions located in Europe;

ii) Collection of detailed data on the research funds raised by such institutions through the EU FPs;

iii) Integration of data on a number of characteristics of the universities;

iv) Integration of data on patent filings at the EPO by inventors residing in the same geographical area of the university.

The research project will also devote a considerable effort to the improvement of methods for linking research projects and subsequent patents. The new data will be exploited in order to address a number of key research questions related to the role and impact of patents as a tool to foster the direct and indirect deployment of academic research outcome for the benefit of society and the innovation potential of firms.

Through econometric analyses of the patterns of specialisation in time of the patent portfolios of universities and their portfolios of EU funded projects, the project will address the following issues:

A. The impact of public funding (also through collaborative private-public funding tools) on the generation of new patented innovations and their characteristics (e.g. technological relevance, basicness).

B. The interplay between the technological specialisation of the patent portfolios of universities and the evolution of technological trajectories by co-localised firms.

C. The analysis of the time-lag between the basic research funding and the patenting of innovations that build on the new scientific knowledge generated by the EU research grants.

The database will be made available to researchers and to the public in 2021.


Research output

  • Colombelli, A., De Marco, A., Paolucci, E., Ricci, R., & Scellato, G. (2020). University technology transfer and the evolution of regional specialization: the case of Turin. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 1-28.
  • Caviggioli, F., Colombelli, A., De Marco, A., Scellato, G. & Ughetto, E., (Submitted working paper). “Pattern of co-evolution of university patenting and technological specialization in European regions”.
  • Caviggioli, F., Colombelli, A., De Marco, A., Scellato, G. & Ughetto, E., (Working paper). “The impact of university patenting on the technological specialization of European regions: a technology-level analysis”.
  • Munari F., Leonardelli, E., Menini, S., Morais Righi, E., Sobrero, M., Tonelli, S., Toschi, L., (Working paper). “The effects of public research funding on publications and patents: a validation assessment of ERC research grants”.