Engaged and Innovative Universities in Less-Developed Regions : The Case of the University of Aveiro

Fonseca, Liliana and Cinar, Ridvan (2017) Engaged and Innovative Universities in Less-Developed Regions : The Case of the University of Aveiro. Case study. University of Twente, The Netherlands. (https://doi.org/10.3990/4.2535-5686.2017.01)

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The discussion on the role of universities in regional development has been a focus of academic and political debate in recent years. The overwhelming consensus is that universities can bring a crucial advantage to regional innovation systems, as knowledge-producers, disseminators and agents in the definition of a forwardlooking society. 'Entrepreneurial' and 'innovative' are now terms universities want to be associated with, and such is the case of the University of Aveiro (UA). Its location in the less-developed region of Centro, however, poses a challenge with the presence of a weak institutional landscape and an economic fabric of SMEs operating in traditional sectors. Nevertheless, a result of local aspirations and of a systemic political and educational reform in the country, UA has defined itself as a dynamic and innovative university, by embracing regional expectations, needs and partnerships, along with a conviction of the beneficial role of international knowledge exchange and collaboration. This paper aims to shed light on the case of this young university, searching to assert itself on the national and international stage, while still fomenting local ties and tackling an adverse context. Using document analysis and in-depth interviews to academic staff, knowledge-transfer offices, incubators and local university partners, this study seeks to understand how the regional, institutional and organisational context has shaped the innovative and entrepreneurial image of UA. Through a comprehensive analysis, this research hopes to present a depiction of UA’s practices toward regional development, engagement and innovation that can have transferrable implications for other universities and policy-makers.