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The role of German universities in a system of joint knowledge generation and innovation

Mirja Meyborg


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1There is broad consensus that universities play a key role as knowledge platform in regional economic development. This PhD thesis exactly picks up this line of thought and explores the role of the German universities in a system of joint knowledge generation and innovation. The overall aim of this PhD thesis is to provide new insight into the German universities' behavioural patterns regarding their knowledge generation, innovation and collaboration function in order to finally provide appropriate policy recommendations which are very closely tailored to the requirements of the German universities as well as to the needs of the German knowledge-based community.

2For this purpose, the thesis applies a broad social network analysis (SNA) of publications and patents that can make use of several thousand publications for each German university for a time period of ten years. The basic research lines are as follows.

3First, it is explored which recent trends can be identified concerning university-university interactions as well as cooperations between universities and other actors in the research system (e.g. research institutes and industry). Second, it is shown how strong the German universities are already linked within these networks and to what extent they are important as a mediator in the transmission of information through the network. Third, the question whether the importance of the spatial factor has changed over time is tackled. Here, the development of the spatial dispersion of all German university cooperation partners is calculated in order to show if spatial proximity still matters greatly. The empirical results confirm a highly increasing importance of collaboration activity in terms of publications and patent applications and point to a more dynamic development regarding university-industry linkages. It is further confirmed that the networks of the German universities have become much larger, and that the German universities have become more important as intermediary in the transmission of information through the network. A third central finding points to a high significance of localized knowledge spillovers, even though the globalization process is progressing further. Last, concerning different types of the German universities, it has been discovered that they highly differ regarding their knowledge, innovation and collaboration patterns. Hence, several policy recommendations are developed which shall help the German knowledge-based economy to be well prepared for future challenges.


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