Abstract Europe is perceived to be lagging behind the US in converting its academic results into economic outcomes. Using new survey data on European and US technology transfer offices (TTOs), we find that differences in academic research, TTO staff and experience explain to a great extent the gap between the US and Europe in terms of the number of license agreements concluded. However, these factors account for only part of the difference in license income. We relate the difference in licensing income to differences in the organization and staffing of TTOs. Our analysis reveals that US TTOs do not attach more importance to generating revenue as an objective than their European counterparts. However, they employ more staff with experience in industry which explains some of the remaining differential in license income performance.