Home Education Higher Education Institutions in the EU: Between Competition and Public Service
As in England (Sect. 5.3.4), no signs of market foreclosure could be detected for research in the Netherlands.
Refusal to Enter into Contractual Relations and Preferred Partners
All the interviewees stated that the universities, as such, do not exclude partners. An interviewee working on business collaborations mentioned this would amount to anti-competitive discrimination. He explained they would like to ‘collaborate with as many parties as we can’, as that would be beneficial for the university. Even collaboration in one project with companies which are competitors would, from the university’s point of view, be welcome. Essentially, as many interviewees stated, it would depend on the researchers and the research question. Nevertheless, some interviewees stated that they might have preferred partners for certain subjects due to existing relationships, geographical proximity, a company being the producer of high-end equipment and therefore the natural choice or, when it comes to other HEIs, due to the fact that they are in an association or strategic partnership. One interviewee, for example, stated that in the area of food and agricultural research they would often look for local partners, since in their area many companies are working in this field. Funding agencies would, on the other hand, sometimes insist on certain partners; regional agencies are aimed at economic prosperity in the region and thus require regional partners, national funding is partly for national partners only, other programmes might require the involvement of SME and the Coca-Cola foundation would only fund charities. A few interviewees mentioned, however, that fulfilling these conditions is not always possible or appropriate, especially in basic research, and might lead to the university not applying for a call. As the universities do not appear to exclude willing partners, there does not seem to be a problem from a competition law perspective. Only the public funding rules might potentially be regarded as anti-competitive, something which will be discussed further below (Sect. 5.4.11).
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