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Collaborative engineering projects and sustainability: Analysing open innovation practices for societal impact in the context of advanced engineering in university industry centres

Paper i proceeding
Författare Rani J. Dang
Maureen McKelvey
Olof Zaring
Publicerad i 20th Uddevalla Symposium 2017, Trollhättan, Sweden, 15-17 June 2017
Publiceringsår 2017
Publicerad vid Institutionen för ekonomi och samhälle, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE)
Språk en
Länkar https://symposium.hv.se
Ämnesord university-industry interaction; open innovation practices; sustainability innovations
Ämneskategorier Ekonomi och näringsliv, Teknik och social förändring


This article examines how open innovation practices (OIP) in the specific form of university-industry interactions can deliver societal impact. This article combines propositions from two streams of literature. One is that achieving societal goals through open innovation requires new advanced research and technology. Another is that when analysing university-industry interactions, there is a large difference between ‘commercialization’ and ‘academic engagement with industry’. We analyse a university-industry centre, with the dual goals of business innovation and sustainability. This article develops and uses a conceptual framework, in order to analyse and identify the main OIPs used, based upon microprocesses, in the context of collaborative engineering projects between universities and industry. Open innovation practices have been widely studied in the context of business innovation. Chesbrough & Bogers (2014, p. 17) define open innovation as “a distributed innovation process based on purposively managed knowledge flows across organizational boundaries”. Much of this literature focuses upon open innovation practices (OIP), within the context of business. Although a line of research has started to emerge, in order to understand the linkages between OIP and societal impact, including research describing government initiatives and proposing ways to measure outcomes (Chesbrough et al. 2014; Bornmann, 2013; EC 2015), two aspects have been fairly neglected: namely, universities’ role as well as the use of OIP for societal impact. Therefore, this article links the literature on OIP for societal impact with literature on university-industry interactions. Our theoretical framework is designed to analyse and identify the main OIPs used. The case study chosen is of a university-industry centre involving several engineering and science departments, large and small companies in order to gain more granular understanding of the OIP that potentially could have a societal impact. Combining multiple goals, with multiple participating organizations can lead to dilemmas, which in this case are created between business and social goals or logics. Our focus is upon how OIP are used and developed in relation to tensions that arise as different partners work towards goals, and how they find organizational solutions to handle the issues arising during distributed innovation processes. Hence, our study contributes to the literature in two ways. First, it provides a framework for better understanding how OIP work in the academic context, specifically advanced engineering involving university and firms. The study extends the framework on academic engagement with a sustainability dimension and shows its implications. Second, it examines the on-going practice that occurs, when a university-industry centre simultaneously has goals of business innovation and sustainability. The paper is structured as follows. The next section (2) grounds our work in Open Innovation Practices for societal impact and University-Industry interactions literatures, and introduces the theoretical framework on which we base our study. Next, we present the empirical context (3), then in the following section we outline our research design (4). Finally, we discuss how our findings contribute to the study of the emergence and identification of OIPs and how these OIPs work in the U-I collaboration context.

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