, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 169-198
Date: 15 Nov 2012

Participation and commitment in third-party research funding: evidence from Italian Universities


Over the last few years, the emergence of universities’ third mission has significantly affected objectives, sources of funding and financing methods, as well as the management, of universities. Although the university–industry relationships have been widely investigated, several interesting theoretical and empirical issues still remain open in the literature. In this paper we construct an original data set, combining financial information with structural and organizational data on Italian University departments, with a twofold aim. First, to describe the importance and the extent of third-party funding in the Italian system of research as well as the pattern of evolution over the last few years. Second, to investigate the factors that influence both the probability and the intensity of the commitment of departments in third-party activities by building a multi-level framework combining factors at individual, departmental, university and territorial levels. The results obtained suggest a number of policy implications for universities and policy makers. On one hand, universities should explicitly recognize the role of dedicated internal organizations and provide training for professional staff capable of acting as value-added intermediaries. On the other hand, if policy makers wish to improve the relationships between universities and external actors, disciplinary differences across departments as well as regional inequalities in growth levels should be carefully considered, giving up a one-size-fits-all approach.

Andrea Bonaccorsi: On leave from Department of Energy and Systems Engineering, University of Pisa.