Boundary-salient collaboration projects: An ethnographic exploration into university-industry collaboration processes

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportPh.d.-afhandlingForskning

The phenomenon of university-industry relations has been widely studied in the field of science policy, innovation, management, and organization studies. However, existing studies predominantly build on two taken-for-granted assumptions. First, we tend to treat university-industry as dualism with competing logics, and that their actors are different in many ways. Although there still exists an academic-practitioner gap, both university and industry have been changing through their continuous interactions and are becoming increasingly interdependent. And second, we tend to neglect that university-industry interactions unfold through time, and they often have beginnings and ends. Although most university and industry organizations would still be considered to exist “forever,” we see our society is growingly projectified. University-industry relations often take place in projects that commonly last about four years on average. As university-industry interactions continue to be intensifying in our society for innovation, economic development, and addressing societal challenges, we must understand the phenomenon in our time better. Thus, this dissertation addresses these two taken-for-granted assumptions by framing the university-industry relations as boundary-salient collaboration projects and taking on an ethnographic exploration journey in two university-industry collaboration projects (Insurance Solution and Animal Feed Solution) since 2018.
The dissertation comprises three empirical studies and one conceptual discussion. Each addresses an aspect of university-industry relations as boundary-salient collaboration projects; and together, they answer the question How do university and industry actors jointly work towards predetermined innovation outcomes through a time-limited collaboration process? With six-month fieldwork in Insurance Solution, the first paper uncovers that both university and industry actors engage in role work, learn from each other, take the other’s role, and make their personalized roles in the collaboration project. The findings suggest that although university and industry actors are different in perceiving each other, they are not that different when in practice.
While the first paper addresses the dualism assumption, the other two empirical papers focus on the temporariness of collaboration projects. Zooming in on the beginning phase in Animal Feed Solution, the second paper identifies that multiple organizations swiftly establish a collaboration routine through performing, changing, and stabilizing the projected routines. The findings suggest that partners intentionally assemble their organizational routines as projected routines for the collaboration project to deliver the intended project outcomes on time. Looking through the first two years in Animal Feed Solution, the third paper specifies how a partner organization manages to balance exploring new knowledge and executing the project according to the plan over time. The findings highlight that the project proposal and the Grant Agreement are important boundary objects for enacting explorative and exploitive practices both within and across the collaboration project and the organization.
While university and industry actors may not be that different in practice, their interaction process goes across different organizational boundaries. Inspired by a philosophical discussion on the boundary-entity relation, the fourth paper presents a typology of organizational boundaries based on what boundaries are
and do and suggests approaching boundaries as separation, clarification, and assemblage. The typology aids in reframing the boundary-salient collaborations and provides additional strategies for collaborating across boundaries.
Through addressing the two taken-for-granted assumptions, the dissertation highlights the value of the practice- and process-based research approach in studying complex phenomena in our time. It ends with listing implications and recommendations for university and industry actors, policymakers, and funding
agencies to jointly improve boundary-salient collaboration processes.
ForlagDepartment of Food and Resource Economics, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen
Antal sider226
StatusUdgivet - 2021

ID: 281599859