Virtual Special Issue - Universities, networks and regional development

To celebrate the journal's 40 years anniversary, RRR will present a series of three virtual special issues from December 2020 to February 2021. Each virtual issue is dedicated to one of the journal's core topics, and covers a selection of previously published articles. The first virtual special issues is on "Universities, networks and regional development", with a collection of four articles published in RRR since 2017.

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The role of universities in a network of subsidized R&D collaboration: The case of the biotechnology industry in Germany
This paper contributes to the growing literature on knowledge network evolution. It provides an analysis of the role universities play in a network emerging from the joint participation of organizations in R&D projects subsidized by public authorities. In addition to theorizing universities’ effect on network formation processes, the paper includes an empirical study identifying the main drivers behind the formation of the subsidized network of R&D collaboration in the German biotechnology industry. We find that universities strongly shape the evolution of the network in the period 2007–2010. They are clearly central knowledge sources and dominate the network as partners in many R&D projects. While knowledge links among universities are an essential part of the network, universities are also able to connect local firms to inter-regional knowledge networks. Accordingly, subsidies for joint R&D support universities in acting as regional gatekeepers and thereby facilitate local and inter-regional knowledge diffusion.
Christoph Roesler, Tom Brokel | RRR 2017


Building of academics’ networks – An analysis based on causation and effectuation theory
Individual academic scientists engage in various collaborations through their involvement in both regional and extra-regional networks. However, little is known about how these networks are actually formed. Focusing on university and industry networks, we take the view that the process of building new networks is an entrepreneurial activity that involves unpredictability and often goal ambiguity. This paper thus employs the theories of causation and effectuation to explore how the personal networks of academics are initiated. With evidence from the networks of 12 academics based at the University of Stavanger, Norway we show that both causation and effectuation are employed by academics when building their networks. The usage of causation was found to be more consistent with building industry networks whereas effectuation was employed when building networks in academia. Consequently, effectuation was characteristic of the international networks which were found to be mostly constituted by other academics. On the regional level, a mixture of both approaches of causation and effectuation was observed, with more industry linkages suggesting a tendency to be more causal than effectual. Furthermore, while causation was employed for project level networking, effectuation was employed for establishing more individual level ties
Rhoda Ahobe-Sam, David Charles | RRR 2019


Regional effects of university funding: Excellence at the cost of regional disparity?
We investigate regional repercussions of the recent shift toward focusing academic excellence in German science policy. We find that the regional concentration of merit-based public research funding has increased since the late 1990s. However, it is challenging to identify the characteristics of winning and losing regions. There is some evidence indicative of advantages for regions with larger overall university size. In contrast, our results do not suggest that more urbanized regions, or regions with stronger private-sector R&D activity, benefit disproportionately from the policy shift.
Johannes Koenig, Thomas Brenner, Guido Buenstorf | RRR 2017


The role of higher education institutions in regional transition paths towards sustainability
The present paper investigates the role of the located Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the transformation towards sustainability of the city of Linz as well as the region of Upper Austria. We argue that HEIs have the potential to spur a regional transition towards sustainability via the channels of teaching, research and outreach. We furthermore take into account that organisational- and field-level drivers influence the role of HEIs within the regional transition paths towards sustainability (RTPS). We chose an explorative research design in order to give a realistic picture of the potentials and limitations of HEIs’ involvement in regional transitions to sustainability. he role of the five HEIs located in the city of Linz is studied through in-depth expert interviews and a comprehensive document analysis. The investigation reveals that there is no contribution of HEIs as a whole to RTPS, but that the impact is dependent on individual highly engaged “frontrunners” enacting change and at the same time on leadership from the university management. Moreover, regulative drivers at the field-level and normative as well as cognitive drivers at the organisational-level affect HEIs’ contribution.
Verena Radinger-Peer, Gesa Pflitsch | RRR 2017

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