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Analysing university-firm interaction in the SADC countries: An initial overview Glenda Kruss SARUA workshop October 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "Analysing university-firm interaction in the SADC countries: An initial overview Glenda Kruss SARUA workshop October 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 Analysing university-firm interaction in the SADC countries: An initial overview Glenda Kruss SARUA workshop October 2008

2 How can SADC universities be aligned to economic development, poverty eradication and sustainability in the era of the ‘knowledge economy’ (Muchie 2008)? The big question, to which this project contributes in a very modest, limited and specifically focused manner

3 The challenge to play a renewed developmental role: University-firm interaction? Strong advocacy and aspirational ‘push’ to promote science and technology, to enhance the role of the university and to promote university-firm interaction BUT constraints: weak political support for science and technology, inadequate policies, low R&D spending, weakened national universities, low quality of SET education, high levels of brain drain, weak S&T institutions, firms with low levels of innovation and technological capability, and weak links

4 Danger: African universities expected to – or aspire to - adopt uncritically the strategies and practices that have proved effective in developed economies, or in developing economies with very different trajectories of development. Risk: will continue to be driven by external agendas that do not take regional, national and local possibilities and constraints sufficiently into account. => need to understand conditions of possibility

5 The project Focus on one new role proposed for university as knowledge producer: to enhance linkages and interaction with knowledge users - specifically, firms To inform the work of SARUA in promoting the interests of its member universities

6 Do universities interact with firms on any significant scale? If they do, which universities tend to interact most typically? What are the main forms of interaction that take place, and what are the channels of interaction? How do they benefit universities and firms? Are these the most desirable and effective forms or should we focus on a wider, more strategic range of interactions?

7 Understanding ‘what currently exists’ Sketching the context for each country, drawing off secondary sources and databases Survey of university-firm linkages and interaction from the perspective of 41 universities in 13 SADC countries Linked to global comparative project: adaptation of instrument Comparative work, drawing on existing HSRC research in South Africa Despite intense effort, responses from 29 universities, realised sample of 26 universities

8 The analysis and report Overview of universities in SADC Collaboration and interaction Identifying patterns of interaction Constraints and opportunities for interaction The case of South Africa Promoting university-firm interaction in the SADC

9 A positive propensity A strongly positive orientation on the part of most universities, evident in a widespread understanding of the potential benefits of interaction with firms, and a strongly positive evaluation of the importance of a range of forms and channels of interaction.

10 A (very) small scale of existence Collaboration between local universities exists most strongly, on a moderate to wide scale Collaboration on a moderate scale with a wide range of public sector and development partners - potentially important support for local development. Forms of interaction: Education of work ready students, related to the core teaching role of most universities, as well as consultancy. Channels of communication: publications, conferences - those most freely available in the public domain, indirect, informal and tacit. There are few outcomes of interaction with firms other than the traditional results of university activity, such as students and publications.

11 Initiating interaction tends to be an individual endeavour Universities tend to have research policy and structures, but very few have interface structures to support and facilitate innovation. Key obstacles that the universities identified are The lack of understanding and knowledge of firms and universities of one anothers’ activities and potential. The need to build research capacity and infrastructure The need to overcome the dominance of foreign- driven research agendas Two critical obstacles that the universities did not prioritise are issues of Intellectual Property Rights, and of the geographic location of universities in relation to centres of economic activity.

12 Preliminary distinctions: 3 groups Homogenisation of ‘SSA’ problematic: specificity? Facilitate more nuanced and targeted developmental interventions aimed at groups of universities with similar experiences Based on the scale of interaction (relative to the SADC countries), and on their institutional profile (as self reported in schedule 1).


14 Moderate scale of interaction: Relatively new medium to large universities with new strategic science and technology orientation focused on national development Small scale of interaction: Long established larger universities with more traditional orientation Very new small universities with new technological / entrepreneurial orientation Isolated instances of interaction Long established small universities in isolated locations Small very new universities with a new technological orientation

15 Cautions, and potential spaces for action Assumption: promote strategies that intensify and build on existing strengths, and avoid creating brand new initiatives for which the right conditions may not exist

16 1.Do NOT pursue a model of an entrepreneurial university We caution against adopting such normative models, or commercialisation forms of interaction as a means of income generation 2.DO pursue differentiated strategies We propose a differentiated strategy for intervention that builds on strengths and capacities and ensures variation and balance across national or regional systems 3.DO pursue responsive curriculum restructuring We propose curriculum restructuring in terms of demands of knowledge economy and local development needs

17 4.DO pursue consultancies and contracts We propose regulated pursuit as part of strategy to act to institutional benefit 5.DO build research capacity We propose a focus on building capability in selected niche areas to build critical mass and research agendas informed by local developmental needs 6.DO pursue knowledge sharing between firms and universities, as part of a wider set of interactions We propose SARUA pursue mechanisms to promote knowledge exchange in the region

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