The Impact of Academia on the Dynamics of Innovation Systems: Capturing and explaining utilities from academic R&D
Doctoral thesis, 2013
The notion that academic research creates societal benefits is widely recognised. However, there are varying perceptions of what such benefits may include, and diverse ideas regarding the ways in which they are created. Some research policy actors expect academic research to generate tangible and direct outputs related to commercialisation, such as spin-off companies, patents and licences. Others argue that academic research may generate utilities in more subtle and indirect ways that are not encompassed by commercialisation, and which are linked to complex, uncertain processes that span decades. The perceptions of how utilities are generated influence evaluation procedures and policy initiatives, which is why realistic representations are paramount.
This thesis aims to contribute to the understanding of how utilities are generated from academic research and development. The thesis draws on concepts from technological innovation systems and research policy literature to examine three cases: Swedish nanotechnology research, energy and environment research at a technological university and the research of a physics professor.
This thesis develops a framework for capturing and explaining academic R&D utilities. First, by enriching the technological innovation systems approach with a typology of activities springing from or embedded within academic R&D, this thesis identifies and examines multidimensional academic utilities. Second, by tracing utilities through innovation sub-process interdependencies, the thesis identifies long-term and indirect utilities created in ‘sequences of impact’. Third, the diverse ‘roles’ of researchers are examined based on their main activities. This framework allows identifying utilities that transcend conventional indicators; understanding individual variations in how researchers create utilities; capturing more subtle, long-term and indirect utilities; and explaining how wider contexts condition the development of utilities. The thesis concludes with key implications for research policy which should develop an informed view of academic utility that acknowledges the great diversity of benefits, especially those of an indirect and long-term character. Policy should also offer support systems that encourage the development of diverse benefits; apply a systems perspective on policy-making; and recognize the great challenges of assessing the utility of academic R&D.
technological innovation system
impact of academic R&D
utility of research