Collaboration between universities and firms has boosted worldwide, due to the transition towards open business models on the industry side and the development of universities’ third mission on the academia side. Such collaboration is expected to contribute positively to the improvement and development of products and practices at firms, which should lead to better corporate financial performance. We argue that these financial benefits should be the major motivation form firms to ‘open’ their R&D activities and interact with universities. Despite there is a broad literature on the determinants of university-firm collaboration (UFC) and its effects on R&D and innovation processes at firms, the study of its impact on corporate financial performance, especially in empirical terms, remains unexplored. This paper attempts to assess the impact of UFC on the corporate financial performance related to firm innovation efforts. To do so, we isolate the innovation-related inputs used by firms to produce radically and incrementally innovative products, and compare the innovation-related profitability of collaborating and non-collaborating firms with a benchmarking model based on Empirical Index Numbers (EINs) and Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) efficiency measures for a sample of 1,060 observations from the chemicals industry in Spain for the period 2005-2015. Our findings show that firms that collaborate with universities have, in average, more intensive innovation efforts, evidenced in significantly higher costs of R&D labour and capital. Collaborating firms also perform higher sales of incrementally and radically innovative products, generating higher innovation-related profitability in the observed period. The profitability gain of collaborating firms over non-collaborating firms is given mainly by changes in technical efficiency and partly by a technology gap, while it is not supported by changes in firm size/scale and price recovery. Through this paper, we contribute to the understanding of the impact of UFC on firm performance in economic terms.
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