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Networks and co-operation

Collaboration and creation of networks, either with private firms or higher education institutions, is usually an important focus of research centres’ activities and, as Figure 3.5 shows, this is an activity to which REI funding is allocated. However, while 11% of CoEsLB report that collaboration with private firms is a major activity, none of the CoEsSB declared this as one of the main activities to which they allocate REI funding. Instead, CoEsSB use their funds to create networks with higher education institutions (18%) and public research institutions (6%). For CoEsLB, the figures were 3% and 11%, respectively.

This likely reflects differences in the research fields of CoEsLB and CoEsSB. Given that many CoEsLB focus on applied and technical research (Figure 3.4), they may see the private sector as the natural market for their research as well as a potential pool of research partners for projects with a technical and applied focus. CoEsSB, which place more emphasis on the social sciences and the humanities, are more likely to co-operate with higher education and public research institutions.

Given the available data, it is possible to see the outcome of the networking strategies pursued by CoEs by looking at the average number of co-operating departments in each host institution. The intensity of CoEs’ co-operation with different departments of the host institution differs across research fields and research budget sizes (Table 3.6). CoEs whose primary research focus is in social sciences and humanities co-operate, on average, with five departments while CoEs focusing on technical sciences co-operate with around six departments in the same institution. The size of the research budget available to CoEs affects to some extent the likelihood to co-operate with other departments in the same institution. CoEsLB generally co-operate with more departments than CoEsSB. CoEsLB in technical research fields co-operate more than CoEsSB in the same research field (6.3 and 5.9 departments, respectively). Those CoEsLB focusing on social sciences and humanities also co-operate with 5.7 departments, while CoEsSB in social sciences and humanities co-operate with 4.6 departments.

Table 3.6. Average number of co-operation partners (with other departments) by research field

Technical sciences

Social sciences and humanities

All CoEs

6.3

5.0

CoEsLB

6.3

5.7

CoEsSB

5.9

4.6

Source: OECD/RIHR Survey to Centres of Excellence, 2012.

Another important way to produce new knowledge and innovations is to establish networks and to co-operate with independent research institutes or with partners from the private sector. In some OECD countries, the call for applications for REI funding explicitly includes a formal requirement to co-operate with industry or public agencies. This is, for instance, the case of some Norwegian CoEs (see Chapter 8). Similarly, the German Excellence Initiative explicitly mentions co-operation with non-university research institutions as a general funding criterion (see Chapter 6). One goal of REI funding is thus to ease the administrative burden that may arise when establishing cooperation links and fostering collaboration by different types of actors. Likewise, some Slovenian CoEs are explicitly based on partnerships with the academic and industrial sectors and may focus on specific industry-oriented research programmes, such as the transition to an energy-efficient economy based on a low-carbon society (see Chapter 10). As noted in Chapter 2, the Irish CSET and the funding line K2 of the Austrian COMET require collaboration between academic and industrial partners.

The CoEs covered in this study co-operate intensively with higher education institutions (10.9 on average) and with private companies or research institutes (almost 16 on average). There is somewhat less co-operation with public research institutions (Figure 3.6). An analysis of CoEsLB and CoEsSB shows a similar pattern. CoEsLB establish more ties with the private sector (17.1) while CoEsSB co-operate with more partners from higher education institutions (11.9).

Figure 3.6. Average number of co-operating bodies by type of partner

Source: OECD/RIHR Survey to Centres of Excellence, 2012.

When disaggregating these figures by research fields, there are marked differences in the average number, as well as in the nature, of the institutions that co-operate with CoEs. CoEs that focus on technical sciences stand out in terms of co-operation with the private sector (co-operating, on average, with 17.7 private partners), whereas CoEs that focus on social science and humanities co-operate on average with 8.8 partners from the private sector. CoEs that focus on social sciences and humanities co-operate mostly with higher education institutions (11.4 on average).

An analysis of CoEs by budget size and research area reveals a similar pattern (Figure 3.7). Both CoEsLB and CoEsSB that focus on technical sciences co-operate mostly with private partners (17.7 and 18.2, respectively) and less with higher education institutions (10 and 16.1, respectively). CoEsLB that focus on social sciences and humanities co-operate more with higher education institutions (16.8 compared to 11.3 partners from the private sector) while CoEsSB in the social sciences and humanities cooperate to a similar degree with higher education institutions and private partners (7.4 and 8, respectively).

Figure 3.7. Average number of co-operating bodies by research field

Source: OECD/RIHR Survey to Centres of Excellence, 2012.

In most cases, the data show that co-operation between CoEs and other institutions (higher education institutions, public and private research institutes) often predated the application to an REI (Figure 3.8) but was considerably enhanced following the creation of the CoEs in 68% of cases (71% for the CoEsLB). In around 28% of cases the cooperative links were established in the process of applying for REI/CoE funding; only in a very restricted number of cases was the relationship between the CoE and the cooperating institutions well established prior to the REI application.

Figure 3.8. Co-operation activities and application for funding

Source: OECD/RIHR Survey to Centres of Excellence, 2012.

When co-operation is crossed with the age of CoEs, it is clear that older CoEs (those over the average of 7 years) have been able to create more ties than more recent ones. This is especially evident for co-operation with the private sector: older CoEs co-operate on average with around 33 private-sector partners while more recently established CoEs co-operate with around 11 on average (Figure 3.9). This suggests that co-operation takes time to establish and is a lengthy process.

Figure 3.9. Average number of co-operating bodies by age of the CoE

Note. Old/young CoEs are defined are those above/below the sample average of 7 years. Source: OECD/RIHR Survey to Centres of Excellence, 2012.

 
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