The quality of academic research and research undertaken at public laboratories is an important determinant of successful technology transfer. Corporate innovativeness may benefit considerably from scientific discoveries at universities or public laboratories and from the availability of locally well-trained scientists and graduates. The extent to which quality matters is investigated for 86 European regions in seven countries between 1997 and 2007. We find that regions hosting research departments at the forefront of science produce significantly more inventions and more innovations, whereas the mere presence of R&D personnel in universities has no significant impact. The production of patents in high-technology domains instead does benefit from the presence of R&D personnel in public laboratories. These results complement the existing evidence on the relationship between public research and spatial distribution of innovation.