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Developing Boundary-Spanning Capacity for Regional Sustainability Transitions—A Comparative Case Study of the Universities of Augsburg (Germany) and Linz (Austria)

Gesa Pflitsch () and Verena Radinger-Peer ()
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Gesa Pflitsch: Department of Geography, Philipps-University, 35032 Marburg, Germany
Verena Radinger-Peer: Department of Economics and Social Sciences, Institute for Sustainable Economic Development, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, 1180 Vienna, Austria

Sustainability, 2018, vol. 10, issue 4, 1-26

Abstract: The potential of universities to become ‘change agents’ for sustainability has increasingly been highlighted in the literature. Some largely open questions are how universities get involved in regional sustainability transitions and how that affects their role in these processes. This paper argues that universities need to develop a boundary-spanning capacity, which enables them to transcend disciplinary as well as sectoral boundaries in order to adopt a developmental role in regional sustainability transitions. It is investigated how universities develop this capacity within a particular regional context, using the method of a transition topology. Comparing how the relationships of universities with their surrounding regions developed in Augsburg (Germany) and Linz (Austria), the paper shows why these processes are place-specific. A university’s boundary-spanning capacity develops over time and differs according to the actors involved. The primarily bottom-up driven process in Augsburg was thematically quite broad and involved diverse actors. In Linz, the top-down initiated process was fragmented and more narrowly focused. Individual value-driven actors that made use of their personal networks played an important role in both regions.

Keywords: universities; sustainability transitions; regional development paths; boundary-spanning capacity; institutional change (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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