How do Organisational and Cognitive Distances Shape Firms’ Interactions with Universities and Public Research Institutes?
This paper examines how the institutional set-up of public research organisations (PROs) affects how firms are able to utilise direct interaction with publicly employed researchers. We argue that the role that PRO interaction has to play in the firm’s innovation processes depend on the organisational and cognitive distances between the firm and the PRO. In particular, this paper empirically explores how Swedish engineering firms assess the value of R&D partnerships with universities and research institutes. Our theoretical discussion of organizational distance suggests that managers should perceive institute contacts to be more strongly associated with short-term R&D projects than university contacts. This hypothesis cannot be verified. Following from our discussion of cognitive distance, we find that firms with advanced R&D capabilities obtain differential benefits. Their interaction with universities provides impulses for innovation and offers opportunities to learn to a greater extent than contacts with public research institutes. However, firms with less advanced R&D capabilities perceive no significant differences between university and institute interaction. Thus, both organizational and cognitive distance affect firms’ interactions with PROs, and our results have implications for the current push in Europe to reform universities and institutes.
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