Journal of the Knowledge Economy

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 385–401 | Cite as

Industry PhD Schemes: Developing Innovation Competencies in Firms?

  • Taran ThuneEmail author
  • Pål Børing


The paper addresses the question of how firms develop innovation-related competencies, by looking at innovative firms and their partnerships with universities. We argue that university partnerships are a strategy taken by innovative firms to develop technological competencies and innovation capacity, rather than an approach to source externally developed knowledge. Based on resource dependence theory, we argue that firms of different sizes and investment in R&D have different competence needs, this likely influences the extent to which they collaborate with universities. To investigate this, we carried out a mixed methods study of firms that collaborate with universities to develop innovation competencies by participating in Industry-PhD projects. The analyses show inconsistent results. The qualitative study indicated that small and large firms behave different along the patterns expected. However, analyses based on a survey of firms found that the firms where more similar in their approach to university partnerships than expected; and that development of broader competencies, knowledge in core technological areas, R&D competencies and innovation capability were key results in all firms.


Innovation Firms Competencies Industry PhD 



The empirical research reported in this paper was funded by the Norwegian Research Council and the Ministry of Education and Science. Their support to this research is gratefully acknowledged. Fredrik Piro, Cathrine Tømte and Dorothy S. Olsen, all at the Nordic Institute for Studies of Research, Innovation and Education, contributed to data collection. Insightful comments to the paper by participants at a workshop on innovation and competence in Oslo in February 2013, and particularly by Siw Fosstenløkken, contributed to finalising the paper. Any mistakes or omissions remain the responsibly of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre of Technology, Innovation and CultureUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Nordic Institute for Studies of InnovationResearch and Education (NIFU)OsloNorway

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