HO-instellingen als regionale spelers

Nieuws | de redactie
23 april 2007 | Steeds meer landen ontdekken het nut van regionaal beleid. In hoeverre kunnen HO-instellingen een rol spelen in de regio die zowel voor de regio als voor henzelf nuttig is? Daarover gaat een project van OECD-IMHE loopt van 2004 tot september 2007. Projectleider John Goddard vertelt hoe een sterke regio globale spelers kan aantrekken:

Higher education can help cities and regions become globally competitive. Globalisation and localisation are making the local availability of knowledge and skills increasingly important. But HEIs also need their regions. This is how John Goddard, the academic leader of the review project, sees the situation:

“All HEIs and regions cannot compete successfully on equal terms on the global stage. The global competition in higher education is headed by the wealthiest US research universities. For them, regional engagement may be irrelevant, but for those in the second tier the regional support for their global aspirations may be essential. HEIs need to mobilise regional support and remain attractive institutions to top-flight academics. To achieve this, they need to reconcile the tensions between two rationalities: the HE rationality of detachment, and the science and technology-driven rationality of close interaction with business and the community.”

“Recently, Trondheim in Norway became “Europe’s search capital” when Google, Yahoo and a few smaller start-ups established their R&D departments there. This could not have happened without the skilled labour in the search community in Trondheim and the proximity of the Norwegian University of Technology which, for years, has focused its research in this field and continues to train highly-skilled graduates.”

Have the regions gained from the process?

The OECD project aimed to enhance partnership building in the regions. The HEIs which participated in the review have reported a number of improvements springing from the review project. They include: closer participation of HEIs in the regional strategy process and implementation, generation of new funding streams from the local businesses, stronger branding for the HEI(s) and the region, and greater impact on national policy.

This is how Per Fredriksson, the Director of University Outreach of Karlstad University and the Regional Coordinator of the Värmland review, sees the situation:

“The process takes time, but somehow we have managed to develop a common understanding of the way forward for the region. For the first time in many years also, business creation in Värmland is positive. The reason for this can probably be debated (for ever…), but it is encouraging for all stakeholders in our joint process! What is quite clear is that the OECD review will be a cornerstone in renewing the Regional Growth Plan and work linked to the EU Structural Fund Program. We had a “re-start” last December when we organised a seminar for the newly-elected political officials.”

No one-size-fits-all solutions

The review does not provide one- size-fits-all solutions. The final report will however point out important general issues that need to be considered by HEIs, their local and regional stakeholders and the national governments. The review also aimed to identify good practice and policy and to disseminate this information.

Initiatives to promote the “third task” of serving the community are often not well integrated within the teaching and research functions that remain at the heart of the HEIs. It seems that some styles of learning and teaching are well geared to support regional development. In Aalborg University, Denmark, up to 50% of the study work consists in problem-oriented project work: students work in teams to solve problem areas which have often been defined in co-operation with firms, organisations and public institutions. At any one time there are 2000 to 3000 ongoing projects that ensure the university’s engagement with the surrounding society.

HEIs and business innovation

HEIs can contribute to regional business innovation for example in four ways: they can contribute to the creation of a new industrial base via new business creation, they can upgrade the products, processes and services of established businesses via consultancy and advisory services, they can also diversify businesses into new sectors by the introduction of new products derived from research and, finally, help attract inward investment to the region by the skill base in local higher education institutions.

Creation of new businesses in knowledge- based industries is a way of diversifying a regional economy. The greatest gains can, however, arise from improving the competitiveness of existing businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises which dominate most regional economies. SMEs have great difficulties in working with HEIs. First steps need to be minor, helping with a solution to business or technology problems and subsequently moving the company into more innovative product/process/service development. To open the “black box” of HE, different types of entry points have been created in the regions. One of the oldest is Knowledge House.

Knowledge House


Established in 1995, Knowledge House is a joint effort of the five universities in North East England along with the Open University in the North. It is an entry point for SMEs to HEIs and helps companies access university skills, expertise and specialist resources. Providing, expert solutions for developing ideas and solving problems through collaboration, consultancy, training and research, Knowledge House offers a cradle-to-grave service, stretching from the receipt and circulation of enquiries through project management and delivery to post-completion evaluation. It receives over 1000 enquiries from client companies and delivers around 200 client contracts every year. Business growth averages 25%. The cumulative economic impact is more than GBP 35 million (a six-fold return on investment).

Most local industry links with higher education institutions, particularly with research-based universities, are on high technology sectors. The Castellan province of the autonomous region of Valencia in Spain provides an interesting example of a new university working together with traditional industry and SMEs. This co-operation has transformed the region into a global leader by improving the absorptive capacity of the region’s SME base.

Transforming the Ceramic Industry in Castellan, Valencia

  University Jaune I has contributed to restructuring the traditional ceramic tile production cluster which comprises 500 businesses, mostly SMEs, employing 36 000 people The links have been mediated by the Institute for Ceramic Technology (ITC), a non-profit association formed by an agreement between the University Institute for Ceramic Technology and the Ceramic Industry Research Association. The ITC provides access to the knowledge, skill and expertise of the university in purpose-built premises. It also provides quality certification tests for ceramic products – it is one of only nine laboratories in Europe with a similar service. The growth of the ceramic cluster has been supported by technology transfer, spin outs and upgrading of existing technologies. The partnership has enabled Valencia to become a global leader in the tile and ceramic industry.

Steve Garlick

Steve Garlick from Australia has been one of the key people in the IMHE reviews. He has participated in five reviews as a lead evaluator, international expert and regional coordinator. Steve has more than 20 years’ expertise in regional development as a policy developer and ministerial adviser, programme manager, regional practitioner, and researcher. In his spare time he is the president of a large Australian native animal caring organisation and, with his wife, cares for injured and orphaned wildlife on their property near Canberra.

Regions in Spotlight

Australia: Sunshine-Fraser Coast
Brazil: Northern Paraná
Canada: Atlantic Canada
Denmark: Jutland-Funen
Denmark/Sweden: Øresund
Finland: Jyväskylä region
Mexico: State of Nuevo León
The Netherlands: Twente
Norway: Trøndelag, the Mid- Norwegian Region
Korea : Busan metropolitan area
Spain: The autonomous region of Valencia & the Canary Islands
Sweden: Värmland
United Kingdom: North East England

The IMHE project will come to an end in September. Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Fundación CYD Spain have supported the project. Ministry of Human Resources and Development in Korea and the City of Turku in Finland have also supported the project through secondments. The participants were not only HEIs, but also their regions including public authorities which are responsible for territorial and HE development at the national and regional scale. The selection included 14 regions: nine from Europe, one from Latin America, two from Asia- Pacific and from North America. The regions ranged from rural to metropolitan and from peripheral to central. The higher education institutions were research-intensive, but also vocational and professionally oriented institutions. At the national level, the review embraced highly centralised as well as devolved governance systems.
Review reports and more information are available
Conference Globally Competitive, Locally Engaged – higher education and regions
19- 21 Sep 2007, Valencia
For more information and to register

Schrijf je in voor onze nieuwsbrief
ScienceGuide is bij wet verplicht je toestemming te vragen voor het gebruik van cookies.
Lees hier over ons cookiebeleid en klik op OK om akkoord te gaan