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Scientific research and economic activity : the perceptions of academic and industrial scientists of the production and capitalization of knowledge



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Knowledge production has changed considerably in the past few decades. This transformation has notably affected universities both as unique institutions and citadels of knowledge. These changes are being brought by a number of factors, such as the globalization of the economy, the rise of technologies based on generic forms of knowledge, and the ability of universities to hold and exploit patents. In both scale and intensity, these alterations have led policy makers to reflect more on how scientific and technological innovation can and should be enhanced by policy decisions that would improve university-industry and government cooperation. This new fusion of three complementary societal sectors has been described by sociologists as the triple helix. As an analytical and normative concept, the triple helix is derived from the changing role of government in different societies in relation to academia and industry. Its basis is the recognition that the interaction among university-industry-government as relatively independent, yet inter-dependent institutional spheres is critical to improving the conditions for innovation in a knowledge-based society. The study reveals that commercial research funding significantly affects the perceptions of university-industry collaboration and academic knowledge capitalization. The analysis showed that academic scientists who received commercial research funding have relatively positive views about university-industry relations than those who do not receive such funds. However, one cannot conclude that commercial activities of academic scientists are harming the core functions of the university or that intellectual autonomy is being surrendered to industrial partners. Based on the findings of the study, and the contours of the triple helix model, it is argued that the growth of university-industry-government collaboration is not necessarily pre-determined in favour of either private corporations or the state, nor is it necessarily at the expense of universities. It is further contended that the growing notion that academic capitalism is harming the core functions of the university is perhaps a bit simplistic in that the issue is more complex and multifaceted than usually acknowledged. In light of the above, the study asserts that the future viability of policies encouraging universities to be entrepreneurial may, if approached strategically, be catalysts for the science-based knowledge economy. For that to be realistic there is the need to understand the university as a ‘differentiated social system’ rather than a ‘unified whole’. This will avoid the situation whereby all university activities are subordinated under a homogenous policy of one size fits all. In the context of triple helix relations, conceptualizing the university as a ‘differentiated social system’ means a deep-seated and continually growing purposeful specialization such as the adoption of an economic development function in addition to teaching, research and community engagement.



Triple Helix, Commercial funding, Capitalization of knowledge, Academic scientists, University-Industry Relations



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)






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