Building knowledge base through R&D networking: Enterprises in the Regional University Knowledge Centre for Vehicle Industry

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Csonka, László
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The socio-economic importance of networks is nowadays evident and researchers from different disciplines try to shed light on their background, characteristics and impact but there are still a lot do and research. Networks are not new to the economic area (e.g. in the form of guilds or holdings) but since the 1970s and '80s their number and importance has risen sharply. (Hagedoorn, 2000, 2002) At the beginning of the new century the main engine of economic growth is technology development, research and development (R&D), and innovation all based on new knowledge. Growth is based on increasingly complex, cost- and knowledge intensive activities. This is a situation which enterprises do not want to / cannot cope with alone, therefore innovation is now a collective process where networks play an important, central role. (Özman, 2006) This underlies the importance of getting knowledge on the functioning of networks or understanding the impact of influencing factors on networks, and so the socioeconomic impact of networks. In this paper one case study of my thesis will be presented. The firms have applied for government funding to strengthen their R&D collaboration and they formed – together with the ‘Széchenyi István’ University – the Regional University Knowledge Centre for Vehicle Industry (JRET). However this is not the only collaboration they are engaged therefore the three firms and their relationships inside and outside of the JRET will be analysed. The industry has a very important role in the Hungarian economy and it is one of those mediumhigh tech industries that are very characteristic for the economy. (These knowledge centres also 'help' to get more information on university-industry collaborations.) The next section shortly overviews some relevant theories concerning R&D collaborations that could be applied in the investigation of the Hungarian situation. The main types of R&D networks, trends and broader socio-economic connections will be mentioned to place Hungary and Hungarian firms into that 'environment'. It is followed by a short overview of the whole research to show the ultimate purpose of the investigation. The fourth section turns to the roots of the investigated case by showing its environment – national, regional sectoral characteristics. This part also gives an insight into the role of some external factors influencing R&D collaborations. The following section provides an overview of the main investigated actors and of the role R&D collaboration plays for them based on some written sources and on the information from the interviewees. The sixth and seventh parts turn to investigate the R&D network of the partners inside and outside of the Regional University Knowledge Centre for Vehicle Industry focusing on the basic structure and characteristics of the whole network and of the bilateral relationships. It also takes into account the impact of the R&D network on the firms themselves and on their environment. The analysis will rely on methods loaned from social network analysis, like those involved in the PAJEK software. The paper concludes with some emerging findings.
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