Higher Education and Smart Specialization in North-East Romania: Opportunities for Knowledge-Based Development

Higher Education and Smart Specialization in North-East Romania: Opportunities for Knowledge-Based Development

Elisabetta Marinelli (European Commission – Joint Research Centre, Spain) and Cosmina Mironov (University of Bucharest, Romania)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6152-1.ch010


The chapter analyzes the links between the higher education system and the design and implementation of smart specialization strategies in north-east Romania, with the aim of providing actionable steps for policymakers, higher education institutions (HEIs), and other stakeholders. This case study allows reflecting on the potential of smart specialization in a region recognized as a higher-education hub in Romania and characterized by a very proactive regional development agency (RDA), but in which universities display limited engagement with the territory and where public administration is highly centralized. The findings identify actions that HEIs and the RDA can undertake to enhance universities' roles within RIS3. These revolve around (1) improving collaborations among HEIs within the region; (2) accessing international collaboration networks for research, teaching, and innovation; and (3) finding avenues of interaction with local actors.
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Background Literature

The environment in which European universities operate has changed dramatically in the past decades. It has become increasingly competitive due to a combination of long-term cuts in public investment in research and higher education and a growing demand for effectiveness, transparency and accountability thereof (e.g. Geuna 2001; Ramírez et al., 2011). As highlighted by Etzkowitz et al. (2008) universities are evolving in response to both endogenous and exogenous pressures that push them out of their traditional boundaries, towards more active roles in support of knowledge-based development. Universities are expected to operate in a more entrepreneurial way, commercializing the results of their research and spinning out knowledge-based enterprises (Kirby, 2006). The concepts of the ‘entrepreneurial university’, introduced by Etzkowitz (1983), or that of `civic university´ (Goddard, 2009; Goddard et al., 2016), encapsulate these new relations, highlighting that that universities have wider influence -and thereby responsibilities- over the social and economic spheres.

The term ‘third mission’ or ‘third stream’ refers to all those universities’ activities that can address social welfare needs as well as economic objectives (Molas-Gallart, 2005). These, broadly speaking, comprise three streams of actions covering (a) innovation, technology and knowledge transfer, (b) continuing education and lifelong learning and (c) broader social engagement (E3M Project, 2010).2

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