Research on University–industry (U-I) linkages and their determinants has increased significantly in the past few years. However, there is still controversy on the key factors explaining the formation of U-I linkages, and especially related to individual researcher characteristics. This paper provides new empirical evidence and, in particular, looks at the importance of researchers’ individual characteristics and their institutional environments in explaining the propensity to engage in different types of U-I linkages. Based on an original dataset, we present new evidence on three wine producing areas – Piedmont, a region of Italy, Chile and South Africa – that have successfully responded to recent structural changes in the industry worldwide. Empirical findings reveal that researchers’ individual characteristics, such as centrality in the academic system, age and sex, matter more than publishing records or formal degrees. Institutional specificities at country level also play a role in shaping the propensity of researchers to engage with industry.
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