Theses defended


Hugo Pinto

Public Defence date
December 4, 2012
Doctoral Programme
Governance, Knowledge and Innovation
Tiago Santos Pereira
Universities as producers of knowledge adopted in recent decades a third mission to promote socioeconomic development. Encompassing a range of activities that gives relevance to knowledge transfer as a process of disseminating, sharing, exchanging and marketing knowledge, this mission includes, but is not strictly limited to, the view centred on patenting and spinning-off. Portugal has been trying to streamline knowledge transfer in a context where the idea of European paradox in innovation, due to the inability of bringing academic research to market, emerges as a crystallized truth when comparing with the North American reality where the implementation of the Bayh-Dole Act is seen as a practice to replicate.
The study uses a plurality of theoretical and methodological approaches, from the institutional thought in Economics and the Social Studies of Science and Technology, to debate the institutionalization of knowledge transfer in the Portuguese university in the last decade. A first empirical component presents the Portuguese case. Based on central institutional dimensions to the performance of national economies, cluster analysis is used to find a typology of innovation systems in European countries. This analysis confirms the limited capacity of the Portuguese innovation system. A second component analyzes the national performance, giving attention to institutional aspects of change in knowledge transfer, specifically new policies, actors and behaviors. A third component uses the Actor-Network Theory to characterize the institutionalization. Focusing the case study of a knowledge transfer office (KTO) in Portugal, the chronology of events is designed to understand the phases of translation until stabilization. The networks are analyzed allowing understanding crucial aspects of its process. The last empirical component analyzes the challenges and contradictions between academics and the business world, with different styles of thought, tensions and lack of mediation and translation of actors in the boundary areas. With the implementation of a focus group and using the Andalusia as a 'strategic research material' for Portugal, the determinants of involvement, number, diversity and informality of transfer in the perspective of research groups and companies, are identified. Previous experience, appreciation of university-industry relationship and the role of the KTO are essential factors.
The results have practical implications for the organization of KTOs and policymaking. Europe has a remarkable diversity in institutional terms resulting in increased difficulty of sharing good practices. Tension in university-enterprise relations needs effective mediators where 'marginal individuals' are essential to translation between different collectives of thought. The strict vision of science commercialization is largely unsatisfactory for understanding the dynamics of university-enterprise relations, especially in regions where firms have a limited absorptive capacity. Excessive incentives to certain mechanisms, such as university patents, transform means for transfer in ends. Despite the increased attention to knowledge transfer, the institutionalization of this process is incomplete and unstable in the Portuguese university.

Keywords: Knowledge Transfer; University; Actor-Network; Institutional Change; Institutionalization; Innovation System; Varieties of Capitalism.