The role of universities in regional development strategies : a comparison across actors and policy stages

Fonseca, Liliana and Nieth, Lisa (2021) The role of universities in regional development strategies : a comparison across actors and policy stages. European Urban and Regional Studies, 28 (3). pp. 298-315. ISSN 0969-7764 (

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The emergence of collaborative approaches in innovation policy and regional governance has increased expectations for universities to engage in strategy making and assume broader roles and responsibilities. Nonetheless, complexities inherent to the policy process, regional context and universities’ own institutional and organisational capacity are often ignored or under-explained when framing universities’ roles. Although these roles are frequently introduced, they have been superficially conceptualised in the literature. This study develops a deeper theoretical and empirical understanding of universities’ contributions in the different stages of regional innovation strategy processes. Through a comparative case study of four European universities, it explores the variation of these roles by policy stage and university actors involved in the strategies. Findings suggest universities have expanded to perform new planning-related roles (e.g. consultation, mediation) and that diverse factors (e.g. the regional context, such as urban versus peripheral) determine their participation in regional strategies. However, strategic coordination within universities and with regional bodies is needed for the optimisation of their engagement in the regional governance process.


Fonseca, Liliana ORCID logoORCID: and Nieth, Lisa;