The Role of Universities in Innovation and Regional Development

Session organizers:

Rune Dahl Fitjar (rune.d.fitjar@uis.no), Paul Benneworth (p.benneworth@utwente.nl), David Charles (DCharles@lincoln.ac.uk)


European regions are increasingly looking to research and development as a source of competiveness in the transition to a knowledge-based economy. This puts universities in a key role as promoters of innovation and regional development in most regions – as producers of new knowledge, of a highly skilled workforce, and as transmitters of knowledge to firms, policy-makers and the general public. In assuming this role, universities are taking on a mission to contribute to innovation and knowledge-based economic development in the regions where they are located.

Universities as institutions embody the apparent contradiction that knowledge is global, but learning is local. While knowledge, at least in codified form, appears to be global, its production and transmission is often highly localised within micro-scale communities encompassing knowledge users and producers, coordinated through shared goals relating to that knowledge. Universities are increasingly representing key arenas linking local innovation and learning communities to global production and innovation networks.

This special session explores the various ways in which universities may strengthen the capabilities for innovation in firms and regions through providing new knowledge, building interregional networks and taking on broader developmental roles.