Universities in national innovation systems

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Sampat, Bhaven N.
Mowery, David C.
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The research university plays an important role as a source of fundamental knowledge and, occasionally, industrially relevant technology in modern knowledge-based economies. In recognition of this fact, governments throughout the industrialized world have launched numerous initiatives since the 1970s to link universities to industrial innovation more closely. Many of these initiatives seek to spur local economic development based on university research, e.g., by creating “science parks” located nearby research university campuses, support for “business incubators” and public “seed capital” funds, and the organization of other forms of “bridging institutions” that are believed to link universities to industrial innovation. Other efforts are modeled on a U.S. law, the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, that is widely (if perhaps incorrectly) credited with improving university-industry collaboration and technology transfer in the U.S. national innovation system. This chapter examines the roles of universities in industrial-economy national innovation systems, the complex institutional landscapes that influence the creation, development, and dissemination of innovations.The inclusion of a chapter on university research in a volume on innovation is itself an innovation—it is likely that a similar handbook published two decades ago would have devoted far less attention to the role of universities in industrial innovation. But scholarship on the role of universities in the innovation process, as opposed to their role in basic research, has grown rapidly since 1970. One important theme in this research is the re-conceptualization of universities as important institutional actors in national and regional systems of innovation. Rather than “ivory towers” devoted to the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, a growing number of industrial-economy and developing-economy governments seek to use universities as instruments for knowledge-based economic development and change.
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