Public-Private Innovation: Mediating Roles and ICT Niches of Industrial Research Institutes

By Bienkowska, Dzamila; Larsen, Katarina et al. | Innovation : Management, Policy & Practice, August 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Public-Private Innovation: Mediating Roles and ICT Niches of Industrial Research Institutes


Bienkowska, Dzamila, Larsen, Katarina, Sörlin, Sverker, Innovation : Management, Policy & Practice


INTRODUCTION

In the Swedish institutional landscape industrial research institutes serve as an arena for collaborative research and development (R&D) activities between university and industry. The research is supported by industrial funding, competitive research funding from government agencies directed towards specific research programs in targeted areas and governmental core funding dedicated to broadly defined long-term capability development. Swedish research institutes are active in a wide array of areas such as environmental technology and management, information and communication technology (ICT), food production and processing, paper and pulp, composite materials, and other fields considered relevant for the Swedish economy and innovation potential. Their general purpose lies in stimulating knowledge transfer while simultaneously both serving industry and having public sector relevance. This paper examines the issue of public sector innovation through the lens of interaction between public and private sector innovation in the context of industrial research institutes. In particular, examples of different roles and strategies of Swedish institutes active in the area of ICT are discussed along with consideration of the niches of specialization of the research institutes.

Industrial research institutes are a group of research and technology organizations (RTOs) which can be partly or totally publicly financed and 'contribute either directly or indirectly to systems of innovation' (Preissl 2006). In the terminology of innovation systems, research organizations that serve industry and public sector interests have both intentional and unintentional technological spillovers (Carlsson et al. 2002: 234). In practice, these spillovers can be inventions in terms of physical artefacts but also knowledge and skills embodied in researchers and engineers that move across organizational boundaries. This is also referred to as the human capital model of innovation, often emphasized in studies evaluating linkages and value arising from interaction between university and industry (Faulkner and Senker 1994). As important for this model as large and comprehensive research universities has been the existence of a number of big private and public firms with close relations to the state, infrastructures and other vital systems (as described in Fridlund 1999). Amongst these firms in Sweden are ABB (power and automation technologies), Ericsson (telecommunications equipment), Saab (military defense technologies), SJ (Swedish train operator), Posten (Swedish Post Office), Telia (telecommunication services) and Vattenfall (electricity and heat provider), all with extensive relations to a symmetrically organized range of public agencies, such as FMV (Swedish Defence Material Administration), and government departments for vital infrastructures such as railways, roads, telecommunications, energy and defense.

The university-industry interface for innovation has previously been analyzed and discussed in terms of implications of industrial relationships for universities (Senker and Senker 1997) and academic entrepreneurship at universities (Klofsten and Jones-Evans 2000, Shane 2004, Balconi et al. 2004, Colyvas and Powell 2007). Other studies emphasize different types of output from university-industry collaboration, arguing that while scientific publications often are the result of more basic-oriented collaborative research, applied research collaboration in contract research can facilitate interactive learning that results in new ideas and can motivate new research projects (Perkmann and Walsh 2009: 1034). This aspect of learning and acquisition of skills is also incorporated in the analysis of concepts of research and development (Godin 2006b), in particular the D in R&D. This type of analysis, concerned with tracing the definitions of basic science in organizations such as the National Science Foundation in the US and OECD (Godin 2003) can be contrasted with other studies analyzing the concept of basic science from a boundary work perspective showing how borders of the concept are discursively and rhetorically mapped out by the scientific and the policy community rather than being sharply defined (Calvert 2006). …

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