Universities, innovation and regional economies

Research team coordinators: Carlo TRIGILIA (Università degli Studi di FIRENZE), Francesco RAMELLA (Università degli Studi di URBINO “Carlo BO”), Marino REGINI (Università degli Studi di MILANO), Michele ROSTAN (Università degli Studi di PAVIA).

The “Knowledge Triangle” based on the interaction between education, research and innovation, is one of the pillars of the European Union’s 2020 development policies. In order to pursue an “intelligent”, “sustainable” and “inclusive” economic growth aimed at contrasting the current economic crisis, the European development strategy focuses on three elements:

a) the integration between the “Knowledge Triangle”’s components;

b) the relational dimension of innovation (due to the participation of diverse actors who are connected to one another via various networks;

c) the local dimension of innovation.

This last dimension is considered particularly relevant, because a strong divide between States and European Regions still persists when it comes to their potential and their performance. Further, research and innovation activities occur at different levels: locally they take place in research or enterprise groups of different sizes; at a broader level, they take place in “Knowledge and Innovation Communities” or in territorial or sectorial clusters; at the national level, they are buttressed with shifting intensity by national or EU policies.

This research project aims at drawing attention specifically on the relations that spawn among the actors that take part in the “Knowledge Triangle” and – in particular- on the relations that link universities and other relevant actors. The contribution of the academic community on innovation and economic development is one of the crucial issues in the debate on knowledge-based economies. However, this topic has not been thoroughly studied in Italy, in particular from a territorial standpoint. The project we are carrying out is heading in that direction. Through a wide-range research activity, we will examine the degree of diffusion of the so-called “third mission” across the Italian regions, or said better, the contribution made by universities to innovation and the development of local and regional economies, taking into account both the “supply factors” (training and scientific capacity, universities’ strategy and governance models) and the “demand factors” (features of the production systems, requests coming from companies and other local actors).

The survey has basically three objectives:

1. to draw up a territorial MAP of the relations between Italian universities and territorial (local) economic systems (local/regional one);

2. to build a TYPOLOGY of “relational models” between universities and territorial (local) systems and to elaborate an explanatory model, at the macro level, of the different openness and activation degrees of the Universities;

3. to explain the MECHANISMS that, at the meso and micro levels, facilitate or hinder the relations between universities, academic communities and territorial systems.