Universities are increasingly recognized as being drivers of the economic and social infrastructure in their region. There is growing awareness on how universities can contribute to regional innovation through collaboration with business, local and regional governments and other local actors. The Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs, as well as the Modernisation agenda for Universities, has focused attention on the need to strengthen the ‘knowledge triangle’ of research, innovation and education. The recently announced EU 2020 Strategy by the European Commission highlights regional development and reinforces the focus on the need for innovation: “Knowledge is the engine for sustainable growth. In a fast-changing world, what makes the difference is education and research, innovation and creativity”.
Leadership, boundary spanning and gatekeeping
“Gatekeeping’ is an important activity and the way that the gatekeeping role is designed and filled is a vital one. Individuals or groups playing this role need to fully understand and have experience of both the academic and business environments as well as the skills to overcome barriers and foster relationships.”
Universities, Business and Knowledge Exchange (Abreu et al 2008)
As senior academic managers and leaders, University Deans are frequently called upon to facilitate and promote university interactions with external partners. This is in turn reliant on developing an understanding of the goals, motivations and drivers for each organisation as well as developing mutual trust and being able to work towards a commonly agreed goal. All of this requires strong leadership skills and the ability to work across organisational boundaries (‘boundary-spanning’ and ‘gatekeeping’).
The project concept has evolved from DEAN network discussions regarding development and skills enhancement programmes for Deans (and those in similar academic leadership roles) to support them in managing the multidimensional relationships required to improve university cooperation with external regional partners.
THE EU Smart Specialization Strategy (S3) Initiative
MODERN report, University Engagement and Regional Innovation 2011
The Third Annual Conference on Building Capacity for Collaborative Partnerships took place in Brussels on
20 September 2012