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Beyond Education: The Role of Research Universities in Innovation Ecosystems

Paola Rucker Schaeffer (), Bruno Fischer () and Sergio Queiroz ()
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Paola Rucker Schaeffer: University of Campinas (Brazil)
Bruno Fischer: University of Campinas (Brazil)
Sergio Queiroz: University of Campinas (Brazil)

Foresight and STI Governance (Foresight-Russia till No. 3/2015), 2018, vol. 12, issue 2, 50-61

Abstract: Universities are increasingly perceived as agents involved in regional development. It is now recognized that academic contributions to the socioeconomic environment go well beyond scientific investigation and teaching activities, and incorporate market-oriented initiatives to the academic mission. However, these effects are geographically bounded. Given these conditions, this article aims at addressing universities’ impacts upon output vectors of localized innovation ecosystems. Using data from cities and microregions in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil observed throughout the period of 2002–2014, we address universities’ effects upon the local-level generation of patents and utility models, software production and emergence of knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship. Besides the scant available evidence on innovation ecosystems located outside developed economies, dealing with a developing country also means we are addressing an analytical unit in which universities play a critical role in terms of knowledge production and diffusion, a function of the weak competences of local firms. Findings support the hypothesis that major academic institutions lie at the heart of innovation ecosystems, but impacts are mostly local, happening more strongly at the level of cities. While the formation of human capital also contributes to innovative output, its impacts are of minor relevance as compared to higher education institutions that achieve excellence in research. This poses severe challenges for policymakers when targeting the formation and enhancement of initiatives to develop innovative ecosystems, particularly for peripheral areas. First, these regions are not likely to reap substantial benefits from proximity to successful hubs. Beyond that, creating local conditions is not as straightforward as sometimes announced in political discourse. In this regard, some fundamental vectors are not easily manipulated in the short-term and there seems to be fundamental importance attributed to long-term, evolutionary conditions. Such is the case for high-quality universities.

Keywords: regional systems of innovation; innovation ecosystems; universities (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I21 O21 O38 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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