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Overcoming barriers is not essential for launching university-business cooperation

Drivers for university-business cooperation have a greater impact than barriers

Our current understanding of University Business Collaborations (UBC) is based on the role of barriers in the development of cooperation. Various authors discuss strategies and practices to manage and overcome barriers to support successful UBC. The common assumption is that once barriers are overcome, the road is paved for collaborations.

We challenge this assumption by questioning the barrier’s significance in UBC:

Are barriers the main influencing factor in the process of establishment university-business cooperation?

Through our “State of European University-Business Cooperation” study in 2011, we designed the UBC Ecosystem Model that explicitly shows that barriers and obstacles do not play a significant role in UBC. This means that the actors involved would still engage in university-business activities regardless of the existence of barriers. The latest results of the UBC study 2016/17 reinforce the findings and conclude that focusing on barriers is a factual error. Contrary to the current beliefs, we show that influencing drivers, such as motivation and benefits, can stimulate UBC activities to the point in which the impact of barriers to UBC lacks explanatory power. Thus, drivers rather than barriers determine the extent of UBC activities.

Overcoming barriers is not essential for launching university-industry collaborations.

The impact of UBC drivers is considered to be influential enough to compensate for barriers and obstacles during university-business cooperation. Consequently, strong drivers are far more important when launching and managing UBC than strategies to remove or overcome barriers.

Thus, organisations should base their strategies on drivers rather than barriers. The UBC Ecosystem Model offers activities (Action Level) on how to progress in this direction. We identified in our latest UBC study that the most relevant drivers are different for managers and academics. Higher education managers see obtaining financial resources as the main driver for UBC, whereas academics value the possibility to gain new insights for research and to improve graduate employability. Further, European higher education institutions stated the contribution to university mission, addressing societal challenges and issues, as well as using research knowledge in practice as motivation to engage in university-business cooperation.

The biggest motivation for European businesses is the access to new technologies and knowledge. Improving innovation capacity and accessing discoveries in the first stage of their lifecycle were rated as second and third most relevant motivators for European businesses to enter collaborations.

Consequently, If drivers are strong enough, they will overcome barriers.

What motivates you to engage in university-business cooperation? Tell us your thoughts on this topic.

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