Inside Multi-disciplinary Science and Engineering Research Centers: The Impact of Organizational Climate on Invention Disclosures and Patents

Much past research on commercialization activities by university scientists and engineers has focused on the role of resources in the extra-organizational commercialization environment, such as the availability of venture capital funding.

By contrast, researchers Steven Curall, UC Davis professor and Dean of the Graduate School of Management, Emily M. Hunter of Baylor University and Sara Jansen Perry from the University of Houston were interested in intra-organizational dynamics impacting the context in which scientists and engineers work.

Drawing upon organizational psychology literature on the construct of organizational climate, they posited that researchers working in an intra-organizational climate that supports commercialization and encourages intra-organizational boundary-spanning will be more likely to produce invention disclosures and patents. Their data from 218 respondents at 21 engineering research centers was both multi-method (i.e., qualitative data from interviews, longitudinal archival data, and survey data) and multi-level.

The results showed that an organizational climate characterized by support for commercialization predicted invention disclosures one year later and an organizational climate characterized by boundary-spanning predicted patent awards two years later.