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Feb 13, 2017 08:10 AM EST

Business incubators have grown in popularity in universities and colleges recently. They are described as tools of economic development. However, a new study has shown that it might not always be the case.

In a research co-authored by Baylor University entrepreneurship professor Peter Klein, it was found "a strong negative association" in higher education institutions having business incubators and the patent quality that it produced there, Phys.org reported. Moreover, it was also discovered that the establishment of incubators appear to reduce the income created by innovative activities.

The study was published in "Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal." The researchers analyzed about 56,000 patents granted from the years 1969 to 2012 to U.S.-based universities, known for their research, that have established incubators. These business incubators offer various facilities to the university community. It provides office and laboratory space, support facilities as well as coaching and networking for potential entrepreneurs.

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More than 60 universities were investigated in the study. All of them are members of the Association of American Universities.

Dr. Klein, co-author of the study and professor of entrepreneurship at Baylor University, said that the researchers focused on the quality of the patents; not the quantity. This factor was tested by examining university patents and their "forward citations," which is the number of times that these patents were referenced in other patent applications.

He explained that if a patent did not have future applications then it might not have influenced other researchers to launch a new study in that area. With this, the patent would not be considered "highly innovative." He added that forward citations are "a standard measure of market value for a patent."

According to Inside Higher Ed, it was generally expected that patent quality and licensing revenue would improve once incubators were established to support high-quality research on universities and colleges. However, the authors discovered that it was actually the opposite. The results suggested that university incubators compete for resources with other offices and programs in the campus.

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