Understanding the Third Mission: changes in strategies, capabilities and resources.

18/06/2014 to 20/06/2014
EU-SPRI 2014. Science and innovation policy: Dynamics, Challenges, Responsibility and Practice
For over a decade, governments at European, national, and regional levels have been concerned with a ‘third mission’ of universities/HEIs in addition to the traditional teaching and research. The third mission consists of multiple forms of engagement encompassing wide domains of knowledge exchange, and engagement with a broad range of stakeholders, including knowledge users in the commercial, public, and voluntary sectors. While this third mission of universities is not new, it is increasingly considered as a ‘critical’ dimension of universities’ activities (Laredo, 2007) and as a result actively supported by public policy and promoted through various funding mechanisms across the OECD countries. In the context of this growing third mission agenda, universities are expected to combine institutional policies and strategies that enable the flow of knowledge from academia in order to boost innovation and economic development, address the needs of policy and civil society communities and contribute to open knowledge and free enquiry (Goldstein, 2010). At policy level, this has resulted in ‘formal/regulative, normative and cognitive’ forces that influence institutional missions and strategies – arguably leading to a process of ‘cognitive transformation’ and institutional isomorphism (see DiMaggio and Powell 1983).
In contrast, universities are facing the challenge of identifying their strategic areas of engagement as a result of these external pressures (Charles et al., 2014). Recent studies in the UK and elsewhere have indeed shown a diversity of third mission engagement by universities, reflecting different institutional priorities and missions, cultures and governance structures, research intensity, and characteristics of individual academics (see e.g. Perkmann et al., 2011; Abreu and Grinevich, 2013; Hewitt-Dundas, 2012). However, there is a limited understanding of how universities have prioritized their third mission activities – how they have selected and shifted their focus and their strategic areas of capability, and the ways in which such differences have evolved over time and how external environments have configured such processes.
Manchester, UK
Fumi Kitagawa, Mabel Sánchez-Barrioluengo, Elvira Uyarra