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L. Gustavsson1, C. Nuur2

1The Knowledge Foundation (SWEDEN)
2The Royal Institute of Technology (SWEDEN)
There is general consensus that industry-university collaboration is important for economic development in general and regional development in particular. Universities are seen as playing a pivotal role in strengthening the economic development of nations and regions. In the literature, the role of the university as a key actor in the knowledge-based economy, not only in terms of producing commercializable knowledge and qualified researchers, but equally as a generator and attractor of talent, is well established (e.g. Bramwell and Wolfe, 2008; Florida, 2002; Lawton Smith and Bagchi-Sen, 2010; Leydesdorff, 2013; Meyer et al., 2014; Strand, 2013 etc.). An outcome of current political and policy debate on creating competitiveness in the knowledge-based economy is the greater emphasis placed on the university’s role as a provider of trained researchers. One manifestation of this is the education of doctoral students.

The overall aim of this paper is to discuss the mechanisms of industry-university collaborations in the context of regional competitiveness. Through an illustrative case study, we analyse the establishment of Industrial PhD Schools in Sweden. The goal of these Industrial PhD Schools is to meet the business sector’s needs for research expertise in relevant and well-defined areas via collaborative research training programmes. Another goal is to develop the research and education environment of the university. The Industrial PhD Schools are co-funded by industry and the Swedish Knowledge Foundation, a research financier funding collaborative research at Sweden’s new universities. The case study was conducted in Sweden in 2014 and encompasses three industry-university initiatives of Industrial PhD Schools involving a total of 57 doctoral students and 39 companies.

The results show that regional industry-university collaboration is of great benefit for both industry and the regional universities. We demonstrate that these collaborative research projects:
a) generate valuable commercializable knowledge;
b) are a crucial source of human capital for regional industry (over 50% of the PhDs remain in the company and over 70% stay in the industry) and
c) significantly strengthen the academic environments.

We also identify some critical success factors for industry-university collaborations of this sort. For instance, company buy-in and support from company management as well as a collaboration champion at the company are critical factors for successful collaborations of this sort (cf. also Wohlin et al, 2012).