The co-evolution of research institutes with universities and user needs: a historical perspective
Many countries have a sector of research institutes that have been set up to promote industrial growth and help with users’ problem solving. Not formally part of the higher education sector, research institutes are significantly less understood and studied than universities. This paper and analyses the co-evolution of institutes and industry and the co-evolution of institutes and universities in Norway, using the framework of Whitley (2002, 2003). It is shown that there seems to be a dominant collaborative approach to developing innovative competences in Norway to which the institutes have had to adapt. Long traditions for external R&D collaboration in Norwegian industry and a structure of small low-tech firms have led to the establishment of a set of industry-specific institutes, a development reinforced by periods of isolation from industry perspectives at the universities. Alternative approaches to developing innovative competences have largely failed. Despite a low level of reputational competition in the public science system, research institutes have nevertheless contributed to increasing the level of intellectual pluralism and flexibility, creating opportunities for combinations of academic work and applied problem-solving. With weaker policy co-ordination and convergence in the funding criteria for all public science, there may be a risk that research in this system becomes more fragmented and isolated.
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