Does the Location in a Science and Technology Park Influence University - Industry Relationships?: Evidence From a Peripheral Region

Does the Location in a Science and Technology Park Influence University - Industry Relationships?: Evidence From a Peripheral Region

Madelon van Oostrom (Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, Netherlands), José Antonio Pedraza-Rodríguez (University of Córdoba, Córdoba, Spain) and Manuel Fernández-Esquinas (Institute for Advanced Social Studies, CSIC, Córdoba, Spain)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJKM.2019070104
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This article investigates the role of firm location and absorptive capacities in university-industry interactions. It observes firms in Science and Technology Parks (STPs) and other spaces of a regional innovation system. It focuses on the effects that location has in establishing diversified interactions, in comparison with other firm traits usually associated to drawing from universities. It also provides evidence on the importance of certain qualities of space, including closeness to universities and existence of institutions specialized on knowledge transfer services. The empirical basis is a face-to-face survey to 737 firms in the regional innovation system of Andalusia, Spain. Descriptive analysis and regression models have been used in order to detect specific influences on five key dimensions of knowledge transfer. The results show that being located in a STP has an influence only on developing informal contacts and human resources training. In contrast, other characteristics related to the absorptive capacities of the firm have an influence on engaging in R&D collaboration and commercialization. The conclusions and policy implications suggest that both the kind of firms and the interface institutions located in a STP make a difference when promoting knowledge transfer with local universities.
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This paper aims to fill a gap in empirical research on knowledge transfer processes by exploring how both firm features and attributes of the geographical environment affect the different channels of knowledge transfer between firms and universities or public research organizations (PROs) in a regional innovation system. As a theoretical background, the paper combines substantive arguments and accumulated evidence on the factors shaping university-industry (U-I) interactions and studies on the effects of Science and Technology Parks (STPs) on innovation.

STPs are conceived as spaces that promote firm innovation by enhancing networking, knowledge transfer and localized spillovers. In particular, it is assumed that STPs facilitate bringing R&D to the economy by creating a bridge between knowledge-based companies, universities and PROs. Agglomeration in a STP may facilitate the creation of close networks and the exchange of useful information between firms and academic research teams. The specific services available in a STP may be useful to get the right contacts and to avoid the transaction costs that firms usually have when looking for research organizations. Therefore, STPs are an important ingredient for policies that try to create regional innovation systems in order to facilitate firm innovation by channeling university knowledge and resources to productive sectors, especially in peripheral regions where innovative firms are scarce and universities have been traditionally oriented to higher education and the production of public knowledge.

However, empirical research on both STPs and knowledge transfer processes show some important gaps in disentangling the specific factors that shape the diversity of U-I interactions. First, there are difficulties for grasping the specific “qualities of space”, in addition to proximity and location, that provide advantages for interacting with universities. There may be several influential factors such as the existence of organizations tailored to strengthen the R&D activities of local firms, the presence of Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) and the circulation of R&D workers and service providers derived from the clustering effects. Second, studies on U-I relationships have shown that important influential factors determining the existence of links with universities are related to the structural characteristics of the firm. Size and productive sector, together with the so-called absorptive capacities reflected by the existence of internal R&D and the education of workers, are considered among the more influential. Nevertheless, it is not clear whether interactions with universities are shaped by being located in a STP or by the traits of the firms usually located in these spaces, given that STPs usually try to attract firms related to high-tech or at least knowledge intensive firms. Third, another important gap comes from the empirical information available about the multiple forms of knowledge transfer in contrast to the information provided by universities. While many official registries are based on formal interactions (mainly patent agreements and contract research), other important channels consist on informal interpersonal contacts and links non-based on R&D that are not reported and are difficult to gather, especially in peripheral environments.

This article makes a contribution to the field of innovation studies by showing evidence on the factors that shape U-I interactions in STPs and other environments in a regional innovation system. Our results seem counterintuitive to some policies that try to fill STPs mainly with high-tech and R&D intensive firms. We found that location is an important factor that facilitates the links with universities only for specific U-I interactions related to human resources and informal relationships, but not for commercialization and collaborative research. This suggests that location in a STP may create an advantage for the knowledge transfer processes of the firms that lack certain knowledge capacities, but not for firms that have accumulated absorptive capacities. These observations provide important implications for discussing innovation policies for knowledge transfer in certain regional environments.

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