Published 03 April 2018

University-industry collaboration on innovation: a literature review and synthesis

What factors stimulate university-industry collaboration on innovation? To answer this question 40 of the most often cited peer-reviewed articles in the field were
reviewed. The results were used to construct a hypothetical model that describes the institutionalization of university-industry collaboration. The model will be applied in future studies of collaboration planned by the agency.


The purpose of this study is to use qualitative content analysis to map factors that stimulate the formation of collaborative relations. We conduct a systematic review of the academic literature on university-industry collaboration and identify 40 frequently-cited articles from the database Web of Science. The review provides the basis for a hypothetical model that describes a process of increasing institutionalization of collaboration.


The literature review is summarized across seven main themes and two overarching dimensions. The themes are resources, university organization, boundary spanning functions, collaborative experience, culture, status centrality, policy and geographical context. The two dimensions are (1) the relative time frame needed to realize an activity/­condition and (2) whether the activity/condition was primarily related to actors/actions or to the environment in which actions/activities took place.

A hypothetical logic model

The themes and dimensions are used to construct a hypothetical model that describes how university-industry collaborations are institutionalized over time. The model suggests a number of hypotheses that describe the mechanisms that link activities and conditions in a process that tends toward increasing institutionalization. The sequencing of these activities and conditions builds on assumptions about how certain factors can affect the level of institutionalization, given a context in which baseline levels are relatively low. For example, the model assumes that increasing the level of resources available is an easier and faster way to reach increased institutionalization than changing culture. However, once collaboration is institutionalized, the relations between the factors in the model may change. For example, it is possible that we may instead observe a relationship where a new culture drives additional resources into an area. Further, when engaging in collaboration is rewarded with higher status, additional researchers and companies are more likely to join. In short, a more complex model may be required depending on the specific context and levels of institutionalized collaboration.

Future learning

The hypotheses on which the model is based require additional empirical evidence before it can be used in the design and evaluation of interventions. Furthermore, we need a better understanding of the relationship between factors when the status quo is characterized by high levels of institutionalization. Therefore, the agency plans to study, through case studies, the mechanisms that link activities and conditions in variable contexts for institu­tionalized collaboration.

University-industry collaboration on innovation: a literature review and synthesis

Serial number
PM 2018:04

Reference number

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