The role of university-industry collaboration in regional economic development

Ranjana Srevatsan

Abstract

Innovation has played an important role in the economic development of regions. It is believed that research collaboration between university and industry has a positive influence on regional growth and development. This research explores the role of university-industry collaboration in regional economic development at the metropolitan level. The collaboration between university and industry is examined through two measures: Industrial research funding (IRF) to universities and science and engineering graduates (SEG). The research is divided into two models. The first model studied the combined effect of the metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) and studied the influence of IRF and SEG on per capita GDP, unemployment rate and new firm births in the MSAs. In the second model, the MSAs were partitioned in terms of population sizes into small, medium and large. The results from regression analysis show little evidence that university-industry collaboration generates economic development in a region. Regression results indicate that higher levels of IRF are associated with higher per capita GDP for medium and large sized MSAs as well as for the combined model. However, regression analysis suggests there is almost no evidence of a relationship between IRF in terms of the other two measures, unemployment rate and new firm births. The results related to science and engineering graduates did not support the hypothesis that higher number of science and engineering graduates can be associated with higher per capita GDP in metropolitan statistical areas. Further, in terms of unemployment rates no statistically significant results were found relative to SEG in the combined model and medium and large sized MSAs. Though SEG positively influences new firm births in medium sized MSAs, the combined model shows no relationship with SEG. An important reason for these weak relationships may be the 'footloose' nature of college graduates who tend to move out of the region after graduation. Previous research has suggested that universities alone are not sufficient to create economic development in the surrounding region. Some have suggested that linkages between universities and the local economy should improve economic development outcomes. However, this research found that some specific measures of university-industry collaboration did little to explain regional economic development.