The Location of Academic Institutions and Knowledge Flow to Industry: Evidence from Simultaneous Discoveries



Scientific discoveries in academia can spur innovation and growth, but only if they flow to industry. Yet, inventors in firms might overlook valuable academic knowledge, for example because that knowledge did not emerge locally. This paper moves beyond the repeated finding that knowledge spillovers are localized to examine whether the location of academic institutions inside or outside of the relevant R&D hubs also affects knowledge flow. Testing the impact of location on knowledge flow is difficult because institutions at different locations produce different kinds of research. We address this problem by analyzing simultaneous discoveries where multiple researchers report the same finding in separate “twin” papers. Even after accounting for the localization of spillovers, we find that “twin” papers conducted outside of a hub of relevant R&D are approximately 10% less likely to be referenced as prior art by firm-assigned patents. This effect is moderated by the institution’s prestige as well as deliberate academia-to-industry translational efforts. Taken together, our results suggest that the geographic location of academic institutions affects the chances that their discoveries become orphaned, with sobering implications for the science of science policy but also potential opportunities for firms commercializing academic science.