Universities approaching market: Intertwining scientific and entrepreneurial goals: Dissertation

Pirjo Kutinlahti

Research output: ThesisDissertationMonograph

Abstract

In the past decades universities have progressively gained more attention for their roles as economic actors. Not only are they held responsible for generating intellectual value, but also for delivering more direct benefits to both society and economy. Such a wider and, at the same time, extremely complex new role of universities poses serious challenges to universities. They struggle to solve the dilemma of how to make academic research institutions accelerate the production of socially and economically relevant knowledge and, at the same time, improve the quality of knowledge produced, without restricting the relatively autonomous governance structures characterising the academic system. The major challenge that universities face is the integration and simultaneous accomplishment of their knowledge creation, knowledge dissemination and knowledge exploitation functions. In an endeavour to shed light on such a multifaceted issue, the present study focuses on the characteristics and impacts of entrepreneurial university by analysing the university-industry-government relations and the university engagement in commercialising research. Using data from several surveys and interviews conducted with Finnish university staff and firms participating in the EU framework programmes, the study highlights the possible gains, losses and tensions determined by the entrepreneurial activity of public research institutions, as well as the significance of universities within the knowledge production and innovative activities of firms. The present study further develops Donald Stokes' (1997) typology concerning the structural, cultural and organisational elements characterising university's exploitation of academic research. In order to go beyond linear thinking and taking into account the cognitive dimension of integrating academic and utilitarian demands, the study proposes a conceptual model, which may represent a useful tool in order to address the challenges and tensions that the university system faces when and if engaged in entrepreneurial activities. Furthermore, it highlights the importance of pluralism and analyses university's extending role, which goes beyond research and education and encompasses dissemination and utilisation of research results, to the benefit of both the economy and society. The findings of the study show that scientific and entrepreneurial goals can be intertwined, although tensions and conflicts of interest may arise. The latter may emerge from the confrontation of different research culture and normative structure, rather than because of the divergences between basic and applied research. Knowledge exploitation is a question of reconciling cognitive differences and emphasising similarities, as well as balancing different responsibilities and demands. The bargaining process between university and industry is important for the success of the collaboration. A mutual understanding of the project's goals and the creation of a win-win situation among the partners involved in the research project are factors that enhance the potential success of the collaboration. Trust, mutual respect and understanding seem to be of crucial importance to firms, when they collaborate with universities. A set of managerial skills seems to be required to enable the universities' entrepreneurial behaviour. In fact, those university institutions that are at ease with the idea of bringing the work of their researchers into closer contact with market-oriented industrial R&D projects, have promoted a business-like management culture and seem to have an advantage in the research market. In this respect, the analysis also highlights the importance of an inspiring and goal-oriented leadership, in order to facilitate the entrepreneurial activities. However, it must be noted that not all fields of science may suitably accomplish an entrepreneurial role, nor do all academics possess the relevant competencies with which to carry out some of the entrepreneurial activities. The entrepreneurial engagement may have some counterproductive consequences for the university system. Competitiveness may create disincentives for researchers to engage in projects where they cannot present quantifiable outputs. Academics may also become reluctant to contribute to educational and training tasks and be less motivated to carry out those research projects with a long-term horizon.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor Degree
Awarding Institution
  • University of Helsinki
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Häyrinen-Alestalo, Marja, Supervisor, External person
Award date28 Jan 2006
Place of PublicationEspoo
Publisher
Print ISBNs951-38-6690-4
Electronic ISBNs951-38-6691-2
Publication statusPublished - 2005
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)

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Keywords

  • entrepreneurial universities
  • academic research
  • knowledge creation
  • knowledge dissemination
  • knowledge exploitation
  • SMEs
  • academic rationale
  • economic rationale
  • societal rationale
  • innovation activities

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