All parties are still learning how best to organize this kind of cooperation. This report is an analysis based on literature review, case studies and meetings with experts and stakeholders.
Large enterprises around the world are increasingly seeking to cooperate with carefully selected universities, for example in joint labs and research centres. Dutch universities are following this trend and are successfully locking in global firms worldwide.
This new form of partnership offers strategic advantages for both the university and the firm, but it also raises new questions. The university and the firm each has its own priorities. The strategic partnership is a new phenomenon and all parties are still learning how to organise it successfully. Now is the time for them, and government, to reflect on the potential consequences of the choices they must make regarding the partnership.
For universities, strategic partnerships represent a way to conduct high-level research and to attract and retain talented researchers. The partnership may also make their research more economically relevant. At the same time, such partnerships help to maintain the Netherlands’ appeal as a knowledge hub; they attract R&D investment in our knowledge economy by offering investors knowledge rather than tax benefits. The firms, often multinationals, are first in line, so to speak, and have better access to public knowledge and researchers than other parties, such as SMEs. Strategic partnerships can lead to the unwelcome outflow of knowledge and talent abroad. Another important question is what role large enterprises are assigned in setting public research agendas.
This report is based on a study of the literature, three case studies (Chemelot InSciTe, DELTA Lab and ARCNL) and interviews with experts and stakeholders.
Tjong Tjin Tai, S.Y., J. van den Broek, T. Maas, T. Rep and J. Deuten (2018). Industry seeking university – The emergence of strategic public-private research partnerships. The Hague: Rathenau Instituut
All sorts of public and private interests converge in strategic partnerships: the interests of researchers and their organisations, of industrial R&D professionals and their organisations, and of policymakers in various domains and tiers of government. They all want to leverage these partnerships in their own interests, but now is the time for them to reflect together on how such partnerships can be undertaken in a responsible, well-considered manner. That means that all the parties involved must take the differing interests into account.
Strategic partnerships are still in the throes of development. By thinking carefully about them now, we will be spared unwanted consequences later.
It is in the public interest to develop an assessment framework that acknowledges the various interests involved. It can offer guidance when deciding which strategic partnerships are or are not appropriate and subject to which conditions. A sound assessment framework should in any event address the following issues:
- How does a strategic partnership impact the access to public knowledge and researchers of firms outside the partnership?
- How does a strategic partnership impact research agendas and the balance between the various academic, societal and economic agendas that mobilise science?
- Geopolitical considerations. Knowledge generation and technological advances are pawns in the battle for economic and military power. Does a strategic partnership help to strengthen the regional / Dutch / European economy or does it boost the economy of global competitors? Is it contributing to the outflow of knowledge and (top-class) researchers to other countries, or is it actually bringing about an influx of knowledge and talent?
- How does a strategic partnership fit in with the university’s long-term perspective on the knowledge institution that it wants to be for stakeholders (and which ones)? How does it fit in with the government’s long-term outlook on the Dutch research and science system?
- How does a strategic partnership tie in with the regional development strategy? How does a strategic partnership impact the dynamism and vitality of regional ecosystems for R&D and innovation?