University–Industry Links and Regional Development: Thinking beyond Knowledge Spillovers

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The use, nature and movement of knowledge have a central place in recent debates concerning contemporary economies. Within this context, knowledge spillovers from universities to industry are believed to be an important driver of innovation. Because these spillovers are thought to be geographically localised, they have a potentially important role in developing the regional economy. However, the concept of the knowledge spillover, although widely accepted in the literature, is not unproblematic. This article explores the theoretical assumptions behind the academic knowledge spillover, namely that academic knowledge is a public good, inherently tacit and context‐independent. It argues that such assumptions make knowledge spillovers between universities and firms appear more likely than they in fact are. Instead, a mixture of informal and formal, market‐related activities enable knowledge flow between universities and industry. Knowledge flows are governed by processes of transfer, translation and transformation that impact on the mobilities of different types of knowledge. However, the mechanisms authors have proposed for knowledge spillovers, such as social networks, are still important. As far as the contributions, such linkages make to regional development are concerned, these may be affected by both the socio‐cultural environment of the region and extra‐regional factors
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1058–1074
Number of pages17
JournalGeography Compass
Issue number4
Early online date28 Jun 2008
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2008


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