Collaboration in practice: A multiple case study on collaboration between small enterprises and university researchers

  • Datum:
  • Plats: Häggsalen, Ångströmlaboratoriet, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Bertilsson Forsberg, Petter
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Industriell teknik
  • Kontaktperson: Bertilsson Forsberg, Petter
  • Disputation

University-industry collaborations (UICs) have been hailed as key for Sweden's innovativeness and economic growth. Similarly, building research and innovation policies for the promotion of collaboration between universities and industry have become a cornerstone for many other European countries.

In academic literature there has been an emphasis on efficiency, facilitation, effects and values obtained in UICs. They have been widely studied, both in terms of the reasons why they are formed, their structure and the effects they create, but not much in terms of how they work on a daily basis. There is less attention in the literature to analyse or problematise how UIC work is carried out when a connection has already been formed or is repeatedly enacted. Additionally, there is also a lack of studies looking at small firms UICs. Through identifying a lack of perspective in the UIC literature this thesis builds on the recent developments in practice theory in addressing some of the gaps found. It thus analyses these collaborations from a perspective not present in the literature in pursuit of how UICs are carried out.

Through four embedded case studies between small enterprises and university researchers the thesis questions some of the assumptions made in the UIC literature and policy documents. First of all, through the practice theory lens, the thesis shows how the creation of a node/linchpin, a boundary object or a broker, between university and industry is instrumental in enabling collaboration work to take place. Secondly, being able to work together successfully does not equal outcomes sought after by policy organisations. Nevertheless, a general conclusion is that there were valuable outcomes for both the companies and the researchers, confirming previous research on UICs. But, these benefits were often difficult to put into clear numbers or metrics and appeared only after a very long time.

The thesis argues that policy (and associated organisations) should promote the connection between a research site/practices and a company site/practices rather than pushing for a joint practice. In such a way UICs can be valuable for both researchers and companies.