University and Business Links

Project Overview

This research analysed the incidence, form, effectiveness and impact of knowledge exchange activities between the business and higher education sectors in the UK. Knowledge exchange includes the full range of ways in which the business community and the higher education sector interact and which may affect business and regional economic development. These interactions include educational and training activities, research publications and patenting, conferences, contracting and consulting activity, internships, joint research and development and licensing and new business formation.

The research provides a detailed and comprehensive picture of the knowledge exchange activities of academics; how they interact with external organisations; what motivates or constrains those interactions; and how academics see the role of academia in society (Abreu et al, 2009; Tartari et al, 2012). Furthermore, it provides an understanding of the modes, motivations and impacts of knowledge exchange from the perspective of business (Bruneel et al,2010; Hughes and Kitson, 2013). Overall, UK~IRC research shows that there is wide-scale knowledge exchange in the UK and that the notion of an academic ‘ivory tower’ is a myth.

Policy and Practice Implications

The role of university-business interactions has been increasingly emphasised by policy-makers, as making important contributions to innovation and economic growth (Lambert, 2003; Sainsbury, 2007). There, has however been a false perception amongst policy makers that academic engagement with external organisations is too low. This could be because of the way engagement is currently measured and the over emphasis on technology transfer metrics, whereas knowledge exchange interactions are more varied  – often informal with less tangible short term outputs. There also needs to be recognition of the engagement of academics across all disciplines, beyond the narrow focus on science and engineering.

Topic Related Publications

  • Cultural Connections
    Authors: Alan Hughes, Michael Kitson, Jocelyn Probert, Royce Turner, Anna Bullock, Isobel Milner

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