Analysis of heterogeneous collaboration in the German research system with a focus on nanotechnology
The German research system is functionally differentiated into various institutional pillars, most importantly the university system and the extra-university sector including institutes of the Helmholtz Association, the Max Planck Society, the Leibniz Association and the Fraunhofer Society. While the research organisations' heterogeneous institutional profiles are widely regarded as a key strength of the German research landscape, tendencies towards segmentation and institutional self-interests have increasingly impeded inter-institutional collaboration. Yet, in young and highly dynamic fields, many research breakthroughs are stimulated at the intersection of established scientific disciplines and across fundamental and applied technological research. Therefore, inter-institutional collaboration is an important dimension of the performance of the German research system. There is tension between the need for effective inter-institutional collaboration on the one hand, and the governance structures in the public research sector on the other hand. The paper presents preliminary results of an ongoing DFG project on collaborations between the various research institutions in Germany, particularly in the field of nano S&T. It introduces key facts of the German research system including institutional dynamics between 1990 and 2002. It discusses rationales for cooperative research relationships and elaborates on institutional factors that either facilitate or interfere with the transfer of knowledge and expertise between research organizations. For this purpose, the paper refers to a governance cube as a heuristic tool that captures three institutional dimensions which are important in facilitating heterogeneous research cooperation.
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