Universities as sources of knowledge for innovation.The case of Technology Intensive Firms in Portugal
Within a debatable framework of ‘natural replication’ of well-succeeded cases such as the Silicon Valley, Route 128, OECD countries have been implementing policy measures directed to the stimulation of the development of regional clusters composed by Technology-Intensive Firms (TIF) around universities believing that this would increase economic returns from public research investment thereby fostering regional economic development. That is because knowledge-based goods and services are highly valuated by consumers and the TIF can increase the rate of innovation in the economy as a whole. Thus, the creation of science parks, the support of business incubators, seed capital, specific supports for the development of joint R&D projects are sponsored by public authorities as an effort to link universities to industrial innovation. This investigation tries an empirical answer to the following questions: 1) Are universities important as source of information and knowledge use for TIF innovation activities?; 2) How relevant are universities for the location decisions of TIF?; Is TIF’s human capital composition a relevant variable for strengthening university-TIF linkages and thus contributing for enhancing regional innovation capabilities? Based on survey data of Portuguese TIF (composed by 425 firms from a total of 728 that reported having performed R&D activities in 2001-2003), and contrasting with Community Innovation Survey (CIS) related evidence, we conclude that university is critical to these firms innovative activities being therefore likely to substantially and positively impact on regional knowledge network flows and density. The evidence collected shows therefore an unequivocal support for public policies measures targeting TIF as innovation leverages and regional boosters.
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