The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 44, Issue 6, pp 1939–1963 | Cite as

Collaborative know-how and trust in university–industry collaborations: empirical evidence from ICT firms

  • Emilio Bellini
  • Giuseppe Piroli
  • Luca PennacchioEmail author


This paper builds upon the knowledge-based view and organizational learning perspective. It develops and empirically tests a conceptual model to analyse the drivers and benefits of university–industry cooperation from the firm perspective. We used structural equation modeling to examine data collected from a sample of small and medium-sized Italian firms in the information and communication technology sector. We found that past collaborative experience increases the benefits drawn from university–industry cooperation. Both collaborative know-how and trust, however, play a significant mediating role on the relationship between collaborative experience and benefits. In particular, collaborative know-how is the main factor enhancing intangible benefits, such as knowledge transfer and learning, while trust is the main driver of tangible benefits, such as product and process innovations. Taken together, these findings suggest that firms should develop strategic competences to fully benefit from collaborations with universities because past collaborative experience alone is not sufficient. From the policy point of view, effort is needed to build channels and tools enhancing trust between industry and university, especially to support small firms.


University–industry relationships R&D cooperation Information and communication technology Small and medium-sized firms Knowledge transfer Structural equation modeling 

JEL Classification

O31 O32 C3 L63 



We are grateful to the two anonymous referees for their valuable comments and suggestions and to Melissa Leffler, freelance language editor, for proofreading a draft of this manuscript. Luca Pennacchio acknowledges the funding received from Parthenope University of Naples through the research grants “Bando di sostegno alla ricerca individuale per il triennio 2015–2017” (years 2016 and 2017) and “Bando di Ateneo per il sostegno alla partecipazione ai bandi di ricerca competitiva per il triennio 2016–2018”.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emilio Bellini
    • 1
    • 2
  • Giuseppe Piroli
    • 3
  • Luca Pennacchio
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.University of SannioBeneventoItaly
  2. 2.Polytechnic University of MilanMilanItaly
  3. 3.European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and InclusionBrusselsBelgium
  4. 4.Parthenope University of NaplesNaplesItaly

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