Entrepreneurial universities, regional development and the European Structural Funds: Comparative analysis on the types of university-led SF projects from four European countries

Salomaa, Maria (2020) Entrepreneurial universities, regional development and the European Structural Funds: Comparative analysis on the types of university-led SF projects from four European countries. In: The 5th Geography of Innovation conference, 29th to 31st of January 2020, University of Stavanger, Norway.

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Current EU policies place an increasingly important role in supporting national and regional R&D activities and innovation systems (European Commission, 2010). One of the EU’s key instruments, Cohesion Policy implemented through national Structural Funds (SF) Operational Programmes, aims to support local level innovation to reduce economic and social disparities (EU 1301/2013). This is currently implemented through the smart specialisation concept, which drives more place-based EU policies (McCann and Ortega-Argilés, 2015). The role of universities has become crucial both in regional innovation strategy formulation, especially in RIS3 processes identifying the regional priorities (e.g. Foray et al., 2009), but also in implementation of the strategies (Santos and Caseiro, 2015). These strategies guide the access to local European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF) programmes, which can facilitate matching universities’ research more closely with regional needs (Fonseca and Salomaa, 2019).

Universities are increasingly recognised as important actors in regional development (Charles et al., 2014) and a ‘third mission’ focused on engagement and external services has been acknowledged as an addition to the traditional core functions of teaching and research (Chatterton and Goddard, 2000; Jongbloed et al., 2008). Policymakers expect universities to facilitate entrepreneurship and technology transfer, binding the third mission to interaction with regional industry and society (Arbo and Benneworth, 2007; Roper and Hirth, 2005; Zomer and Benneworth, 2012), but this role of fostering regional entrepreneurship and economic growth may be challenging for universities (Gibb and Hannon, 2006). Overall, the discussion has been widely dominated by the concept of the ‘entrepreneurial university’ (Clark, 1998; 2004; Vorley and Nelles 2009), which is strongly linked with universities’ enhanced engagement role. The entrepreneurial university has been described as an organisation that embeds economic and social development more closely into research, education and technology transfer activities so that all three academic missions support one another (Etzkowitz and Kloften, 2005; Etzkowitz, 2013). In practise, the volume of expected entrepreneurial spillovers from academia has not been realistic in recent policy frameworks, even more so in peripheral regions with a limited innovation capacity. In such regions, it has been suggested that the focus of innovation policies should be on supporting the absorptive capacity of local SMEs and promoting networking and knowledge exchange (Brown, 2016), which resonates well with ERDF funding priorities for programme period 2014–2020 .

However, universities seeking to become entrepreneurial should acknowledge that their regional contexts steer the way they can implement third stream activities (Salomaa, 2019), and identify how the third mission can be delivered on a micro scale instead of using the concept merely in ‘promotional terms’ (Lebeau and Cochrane, 2015). SF programmes can support universities to deliver engagement activities, especially in less-developed regions: previous case studies show that they have contributed to creating the foundations of regional systems of innovation as well as having reinforced universities’ regional engagement (Charles and Michie, 2013). Universities are also among the key beneficiaries of these funds (e.g. Spilanis et al., 2016). Taking part or leading Structural Funds projects may be a concrete way to engage with regional development and initiate entrepreneurial activities beyond spinoffs and other research spillovers.

Thus the research questions set for this study is: How entrepreneurial universities can manage and deliver their regional engagement activities through SF programmes? A series of in-depth case studies from Finland, UK, Portugal and the Netherlands create a basis for a qualitative analysis for creating a typology of different types of university-led SF projects. Examination of specific types of SF projects conducted by universities reveals how universities can respond to regional needs in different national contexts while linking the projects to core missions, and how the management of these activities could be enhanced. A qualitative analysis of the university engagement with SF programmes in different national contexts identifies how universities can respond to regional needs while linking the projects to teaching and research, and how the management of these activities could be enhanced.

Keywords:University engagement, Third mission, Structural Funds
Subjects:X Education > X342 Academic studies in Higher Education
N Business and Administrative studies > N215 Organisational Development
L Social studies > L241 European Union Politics
Divisions:Lincoln International Business School
ID Code:40044
Deposited On:03 Feb 2020 11:28

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