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Universities and Regional Economic Development: The Entrepreneurial University of Waterloo. Allison Bramwell and David A. Wolfe Program on Globalization and Regional Innovation Systems Munk Centre for International Studies The University of Toronto www.utoronto.ca/progris

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Universities and Regional Economic Development:The Entrepreneurial University of Waterloo

Allison Bramwell and David A. Wolfe

Program on Globalization and Regional Innovation Systems

Munk Centre for International Studies

The University of Toronto

www.utoronto.ca/progris

Canadian Political Science Association Annual Meeting

The University of Western Ontario

June 2-4, 2005


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Beyond “Knowledge Factories”

  • Universities are central actors in the knowledge-based economy

  • Seen as “knowledge factories” that generate reservoirs of untapped commercializable knowledge waiting to be taken-up by firms and applied

  • Knowledge drives innovation BUT process is fluid and iterative rather than linear

  • Universities transfer knowledge in multi-faceted ways and can be engaged institutional actors in the local economy


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Universities and ‘Learning’ in Knowledge-Based Economies: From Linear to Interactive Models of Knowledge Transfer

  • Knowledge transfer as an interactive vs. linear process

    • Lundvall (1992) – successful innovation requires constant learning and adaptation so emerging paradigm is more that of a ‘learning economy’

    • Cooke (1988); Maskell (2001) – innovation is a social process and producers and users learn from each other in face-to-face exchange of tacit knowledge

    • Wolfe (2005) – learning occurs at the regional level through sharing of common networks of knowledge exchange, supported by regional institutions, especially universities

    • Pavitt (1991); Cohen & Levinthal (1990) – firms need to develop absorptive capacity through high skill sets in order to exploit university-generated knowledge


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The University of Waterloo: An Entrepreneurial University Embedded in an Entrepreneurial Community

“Today it is the University of Waterloo. If you go back in the cluster, it all comes from UW in some form or other…

Is there a cluster around the area, yeah there is. Is the external perception stronger than it actually is? Yeah, I think so…

We get referenced in presentations in San Diego, Washington and New York about this Waterloo cluster…but it’s clear that the University of Waterloo is the one thing that pulls it together.”*

Confidential interview.


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Alternative Knowledge Transfer Mechanisms Embedded in an Entrepreneurial Community

  • Knowledge Creation

    • not just primary research but also technical support for firm-based R&D through project-oriented consulting and joint research projects

  • Human Capital Formation

    • international reputation for producing skilled graduates in math, sciences, and computer engineering supported by Co-op Program

  • Global Linkages

    • researchers act as conduits for global ‘pipelines’ of knowledge that contribute to local ‘buzz’

  • Engaged Entrepreneurial Institution

    • acts as a “good community player” that shapes and supports local networks and flows of knowledge that underpin a highly successful regional economy


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“There is an entrepreneurial identification process where students go back and forth to industry which gives individuals experience in industry. Faculty members will go back and talk to their students, and co-op students are enthusiastic coming back from their terms. The University IP Policy also attracts entrepreneurial researchers interested in the IP dividend, with strong commitments to industry. Due to various programs such as the Co-op Program, the University of Waterloo has had, from the outset, very strong university-industry linkages. As a result, we’ve never had any major problems promoting [these linkages] as they pay dividends in the community.”*Confidential interview.


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