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Study Examines the Impact of Policy Dynamics on University Innovation in Three Southern States

June 12, 2014

This is part two of a two-part series on the effects of policy dynamics on university innovation and focuses on state polices in three Southern U.S. states; part one focused on national policies from OECD nations.

Starting in the 1970s, U.S states have independently pursued initiatives in research and development (R&D) and science and technology (S&T) polices with the intent of supporting innovation and economic development. These polices are intended to allow U.S. states compete in the increasingly global, knowledge-based market. Similar to many of the early national strategies covered in part one, the early state policies focused on the science-push-model. In many cases, these policies fostered zero-sum games between states that might not necessarily benefit national economic growth and competitiveness. In comparison, the European Union recently announced initiatives that support research collaborations between research institutions located in different member nations.

However in the 1990s, state policies started to shift toward targeting publically funded researcher universities as the drivers of state innovation and economic growth. To achieve this, there has been a transition from the science-push-model to a model focused on supporting academic-industry links and incentivizing knowledge production and exchange. This recent policy shift also has seen a decentralization of higher-education governance that allows research institutions to gain over planning and management.

In Leveraging University Research to Serve Economic Development: an Analysis of Policy Dynamics in and Across Three U.S. States, Jarrett Warshaw and James Hearn conducted a comparative study of state S&T policy dynamics in three Southern states: Georgia, Missouri, and Texas. Using data from the National Science Foundation-sponsored case studies, the studies were leveraged to examine how state policies have affected innovation at publically funded research universities and their ability to impact economic growth. In addition to the case studies, they also conducted interviews with key stakeholders in each respective state.

The study includes a brief historical background of each state and a cross-state comparison of the system.  The cross-case comparative study examined four themes:

  • States’ competitive orientations drove the aim, scope, and scale of economic development.
  • Universities collaborated in tripartite relations, with differing levels of leadership and aggressiveness by state.
  • Arenas of collaboration reified partnership expectations and norms, with striking differences across states.
  • Universities evinced industry logics, reflecting specific state economic-development contexts.

The three primary findings of this study include:

  • State S&T policies have been distinct from national initiatives and more domestic than global with a focus on support for local industries that sale regionally instead of globally.
  • The three states feature similar policies, but have evolved “new economy” approaches idiosyncratically driven by different stakeholders.
  • Universities in these states have driven innovation by bringing together industry and university research capabilities. According to the report, all three states have developed successful policies that promote economic growth via university-industry partnerships.

The report also highlights differences in the drivers of policy initiatives. In Georgia, policy changes are led by the Georgia Research Alliance with universities and industry as co-drivers. Missouri policies have positioned universities as pushers and purveyors of researcher in an attempt to support economic growth.  Finally, universities and state policymakers have alternated leadership of innovation-focused initiatives.  Read the report…

Georgia, Missouri, Texashigher ed