This paper focuses on the contract research (contratto in conto terzi), a frequent observed type of linkage between university and business but largely neglected in economic studies. The goal of the is twofold: i) to identify the characteristics of this specific “channel” of knowledge transfer (exchange); ii) to specify these relations in terms of network links between universities and external partners. In this paper we study the interactions established in terms of contract research, by the Departments of Universities of the Friuli Venezia Giulia, a northern-east Italian region. Applying Social Network Analysis to data drawn from the administrative databases of two regional Universities, significant interactions between the University Departments and the outside world are shown. Particular attention is paid to the relationships activated with firms, grouped by sector and location, in order to stress the importance of geographical proximity in facilitating university-business relationships. The results support the existence of different knowledge exchange patterns between the two Universities, strongly influenced by the relational behavior and the scientific specialization of the most “central” Departments.