The Portuguese University: Knowledge Leverage towards Innovation

The Portuguese University: Knowledge Leverage towards Innovation

Maria Manuela Gomes de Azevedo Pinto (University of Porto, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7536-0.ch024
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Abstract

This chapter presents an evolutionary analysis, at the Portuguese and European levels, that features Higher Education centred on the University's Mission, the building and importance of National Innovation System, and related dynamics. The university should fulfil the fundamental role related with creation, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge and generate skills and key competences to respond to increasingly more complex problems in a rapidly changing environment, as well as to enable multidisciplinary approaches that are in the university's own and peculiar nature, and which is fostered by the relationships with the systems that drive the interaction with the target communities. Referring to the last quarter of the 20th century, the chapter outlines the emergence of the “Research University” in the context of the slow but progressive increase in value of Science and Technology and Research and Development, with the organization of the related National Systems in order to be able to foster innovation.
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Background

The innovation approach and its management is not dissociable from knowledge production and its efficient dissemination, use and transformation, wherein the main actors in this process are “the University”, the interface “University/Target Communities”, the institutions, the organizations, and all other agents that interact with the academia, as well as the State.

This issue was addressed in the research developed between 2009 and 2011, focusing on Information an Information Management in institutional contexts. The University was selected as the main context of a study that included the emergence of the “Research University” in Portugal, in the last quarter of the 20th century, alongside the recognition of the value of Science and Technology (S&T), Research and Development (R&D) and Research & Development + Innovation (R&D+i / RDI), with the building of the National S&T System (NS&TS) and the evolutionary path that will lead to the National Innovation System (NIS).

The analysis outlines the secular institution of the University facing a society which, on a global scale, has assigned to the university an increasingly central role and participation in it and interaction with social, economic and political dynamics.

The University is expected to generate knowledge, skills and key competences to respond to increasingly more complex problems in a rapidly changing environment, as well as to enable multidisciplinary approaches that only the University can develop and implement, by “building upon a diversity” which characterizes it, and which is fostered by the relationships with the various systems that drive the interaction with the target communities.

In fact, the University is called to participate in new educational/learning models, to form more and better graduates, masters, PhDs, to guarantee lifelong learning, and to participate actively in the new “informational mode of development”. The latter is based on centralizing information and knowledge as primary sources of productivity and competition: on the “new knowledge based economy”, on the improvement and development of the national economy, on enhancing interaction with the community, which is translated into one word, “change/shift”, applied at two levels:

  • Promoting the shift within it;

  • Leveraging the shift on the outside.

A shift which is not separable from the globalization phenomena and consequent internationalization that characterizes the times in which we live. A shift that begins within our own University, but depends on the strategies that come as a result as the national suitability to the defined policies, from the start, at the European Union level, competing with actors such as the United States and Japan, and, naturally, increased, at a national level, with the regional specificities brought in by the proliferation of Universities in the 1970s and 80s, which should not be forgotten.

A scenario in which the University’s systemic referential should not be forgotten, namely its positioning in view of the various national systems, mostly very recent but already subject to constant (re)constructions, which are:

  • The Educational System (ES) and the Higher Education (sub)System (HES);

  • The Scientific System (SS) or: the Science and Technology System (S&TS), or National Scientific System, or National Scientific and Technological System, or National Science and Technology System (NSS, NS&TS, NS&TS), depending on the context of use;

  • The Innovation System or “Research, Development and Innovation System” (IS/RDIS);

  • The Business System itself (BS).

Thus, from the research made, namely related to the retrospective analysis and empirical study, we will seek to present, in a concise way, the Portuguese reality in terms of the government, academic and business life, a triad that seems to correlate with the application of the “Triple Helix Model”, proposed by Etzkowitz and Letdesdorff in 1998.

Key Terms in this Chapter

University: It is an autonomous institution that contributes to society through the pursuit of education, learning, research, knowledge transfer and services; in the Information and Knowledge Era is a fundamental source of knowledge and innovation in constant interaction with the community and its agents.

National Innovation System (SNIn): It is a set of interacting institutions confined to a national territory that help to create, develop, absorb, use and share useful knowledge for value creation, it involves the actors in the system (companies, educational and research institutions, governmental institutions, interface and technological support centers and financing system).

Innovation System (SIn): It consists in a group of economic, social, political, organisational and institutional factors or others that influence the creation, development, dissemination and use of innovation. Firms, Universities and Government institutions are part of the SIn.

Science and Technology (S&T): It consists in a set of systematic activities related to the creation, expansion, dissemination and application of scientific and technological knowledge.

Information: It identifies a scientific object consisting in a structured set of codified mental and emotional representations (signs and symbols), created in a specific social context and moulded by social interaction, which can be recorded in any material medium (paper, film, compact disc, magnetic tape, etc.) and, therefore, communicated in an asynchronous and multidirected way. It is also considered as explicit knowledge.

Research and Development: ( R&D): It consists in a set of systematic activities related with basic research (or fundamental), applied research and experimental development.

Innovation: It is an holistic concept that embodies a process that includes all steps of scientific, technological, organisational, financing and commercial nature needed to develop new and viable products, services and processes; pointing to the systemic context it incorporates issues of creation, discovery, dissemination and application of scientific and technological knowledge; it requires risks and cooperation.

Information Management: An Information Science study field directed to the wide and complex problems related to information production, processing, storage, preservation, communication and use (from the environment to the producing structure, the operationalization, flow and usefulness of organic memory, the actors, the goals, the strategies and the adjustments to change) in an institutional, organizational and informal organic context.

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