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Creating Enabling Environments. (Book Review).

Innovation U: New University Roles in a Knowledge Economy. (2002). Louis G. Tornatzky, Paul G. Waugaman, and Denis O. Gray. Research Triangle Park: N.G., Southern Growth Policies Board. 180 pages soft-cover. $32.

Unlike other volumes that critically assess the linkages among researchers, universities, and industry, Innovation U: New University Roles in a Knowledge Economy champions the contributions that such linkages make to the fulfillment of an expanded mandate for universities to contribute to regional and national economic development. Through 12 case studies of exemplary institutions, the authors analyze conditions that enable universities and faculty to develop effective linkages and use these external partnerships to improve regional economic development. The institutions selected as case studies were Carnegie-Mellon, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), North Carolina State University (NC State), Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue, Stanford, Texas A&M, University of California-San Diego, University of Utah, University of Wisconsin, and Virginia Tech. Georgia Tech was identified as the most advanced of the institutions in activities tracked by the authors. There is no one m odel of effective university-industry collaborations, but there are common features or environments that enable universities and empower faculty to develop strong and productive linkages with external partners.

The authors convincingly argue that universities have a mandate to go beyond the education of the next generation of scholars and educated citizens. This mandate is critical to the development and enhancement of a knowledge-based society and its economy since it is the university sector that provides societies and economies across the globe with highly qualified personnel who are key to innovation in science, government and industry Thus, the authors set out two central objectives; first to describe what constitutes university engagement in terms of technology-based economic development and second to describe how the exemplary institutions do differently from their peers in terms of specific practices, policies, and programs.

Building upon their expertise in benchmarking, the authors grouped 10 domains of institutional behaviour into 3 broad groupings: (a) mechanisms, (b) institutional enablers, and (c) boundary-spanning structures and systems. These groupings assisted the authors to differentiate each institution from one another and the whole spectrum of universities that are actively engaged in partnerships with industry and economic development authorities.

Interpreting the Findings

Best practices for universities, state/federal governments, agencies, and foundations are developed from the analysis. An enabling environment is the most critical factor and includes: (a) clearly articulated mission and/or vision statements that underscore the importance of collaborations with regional government and industry partners; (b) consistent and visible commitments among institutional leaders to partnerships; (c) effective and efficient infrastructures, policies, and procedures that facilitate collaboration and partnerships; and (d) receptor capacity in the region.

The case studies underline the importance of institutional leadership and champions who consistently deliver to faculty and external communities and reinforce the importance of external partnerships and academic entrepreneurship. For example, the mission statements of NC State and Ohio State demonstrate the effectiveness of clearly articulated vision and goals. However, it is equally, if not more, important that these statements of vision and goals be implemented at the operational level.

Innovative universities have policy and procedure frameworks that are, for the most part, consistent with the articulated vision of partnerships. The core policy issues identified include conflict of interest, conflict of commitment, laboratory space, intellectual property management, and participation in spin-out companies. The reward structures--tenure and promotion, ability to participate in spin-outs, etc.--must be consistent with the employer's articulated vision. In addition, infrastructures such as the sponsored research, university-industry liaison, and technology transfer offices must be faculty-friendly, accessible, knowledgeable, and efficient as well as innovative and entrepreneurial. The importance of highly skilled, knowledgeable, and innovative personnel in these administrative offices is often underestimated. These individuals are the key to much of the knowledge-mobilization processes that contribute to effective collaborations with local and regional industry.

While an institutional environment that supports innovation and knowledge mobilization is one key factor of success, an enabling external environment is equally important. The authors identify lessons that inform state government roles and policies. Governments may introduce research programs that require partnerships, enable universities to retain or attract researcher stars, and facilitate links to local receptor capacity that are free from pork-barreling. Moreover, drawing on the experience of the 12 universities, support for science parks with incubator or accelerator capacity, provides opportunities for entrepreneurial researchers to spin-out new companies and mature companies to expand their research base by locating near universities with quality educators and graduates.


Tornatzky, Waugaman, and Gray have contributed much to our understanding of the factors that enabled these universities to become innovative and to contribute to regional and national economic development. Moreover, the advice that they provide is transferable. Medium-sized and small universities can draw upon the lessons outlined herein. However, the focus on technology-based innovation may be viewed as limiting. Innovative universities, critics might argue, are institutions whose focus is broader than university-industry collaborations because they seek ways to mobilize the knowledge of research faculty in all disciplines, including the social sciences and humanities. The rhetoric of partnership and collaboration needs enhancement to recognize the social and cultural capital of the research within our institutions as well as the ways in which knowledge is generated and transferred among disciplines. University research should improve the quality of life of our local, regional, and national communities and e conomies. This criticism in no way detracts from the contributions of Innovation U to our understanding of the key factors that provide an enabling environment for universities and their research faculty to become more centrally engaged in the economic and social development of their communities.

Author's Note: Dr. Owen acknowledges the support and consultation of his colleagues Susan Sykes, University of Waterloo; Noreen Golfman, Memorial University of Newfoundland; Joanne Burgess, Universite du Quebec a Montreal; and Louise Robert, past Executive Director of the Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada.

The content of the article, its interpretation, and any errors or omissions are the author's alone and do not represent the position of the HSSFC, the SSHRC, or his colleagues. Contact Dr. Owen, Director, Office of Research Services, Brock University, 500 Glenridge Avenue, St. Catharines, ON L2S 3AI or by Email:

Michael Owen, PhD, is Director, Office of Research Services and Associate Faculty of Education at Brock University, St. Catharines, ON, Canada. He has 17 years experience in research administration and related work. Prior to joining Brock University, Dr. Owen was Director of Research Services at Ryerson Polytechnic University and the University of Saskatchewan and was Assistant to the Vice President Academic at Athabasca University. Dr. Owen received his doctorate in educational theory from OISE/University of Toronto. His other publications are in technology transfer and research administration. He is SPA President Elect, past president of the Canadian Section, and a member of the SPA Board of Directors since 1998.
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Title Annotation:review of "Innovation U: New University Roles in a Knowledge Economy"
Author:Owen, Michael
Publication:Journal of Research Administration
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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