Higher Education Institutions in the Knowledge Triangle

  • Mario Cervantes
Part of the Science, Technology and Innovation Studies book series (STAIS)


This paper discusses some of the policy issues and best practices aimed at enhancing HEIs performance and improving their impact on society and the economy within the knowledge triangle. The knowledge triangle concept aims at exploring ways to better align and integrate the research, education and innovation functions of HEIs. The paper describes the contents of the knowledge triangle, HEI performance through the lens of this concept, policies to promote the knowledge triangle in HEIs, as well as potential contradiction in relation to other knowledge producers—public research centres and companies.

The conclusion is that there is no single model of universities and knowledge triangle. This is due to the country-specific peculiarities of educational systems, diversity within HEIs themselves and the functions they perform, as well as the specifics of regional ecosystems. Accordingly, the key to the efficiency of the knowledge triangle tools is their place-based adjustment. In order to achieve a tangible contribution of universities to the development of regional and local innovation, it is necessary to ensure complementarities and a balance between their missions.


Knowledge triangle Research Education Innovation Third mission Regional ecosystems Place-based policy Higher education institutions (HEIs) Universities Knowledge transfer 


  1. Abbott M, Doucouliagos C (2009) Competition and efficiency: overseas students and technical efficiency in Australian and New Zealand universities. Educ Econ 17(1):31–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aghion P, Howitt PW (2008) The economics of growth. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  3. Aghion P, Dewatripont M, Stein JC (2008) Academic freedom, private sector focus, and the process of innovation. Rand J Econ 39(3):617–635CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aghion P, Blundell R, Griffith R, Howitt P, Prantl S (2009) The effects of entry on incumbent innovation and productivity. Rev Econ Stat 91(1):20–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Altbach PG, Umakoshi T (2004) Asian universities: historical perspectives and contemporary challenges. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MDGoogle Scholar
  6. Benner MJ, Tushman ML (2015) Reflections on the 2013 decade award —“exploitation, exploration, and process management: the productivity dilemma revisited” ten years later. Acad Manage Rev 40(4):497–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Borlaug BS, Aanstad S, Solberg E, Thune TM (2016) The knowledge triangle in policy and institutional practices—The case of Norway (Report 2016:45). Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU), Oslo. Available at Accessed 24 June 2017
  8. Bramwell A, Wolfe AD (2008) Universities and regional economic development: the entrepreneurial university of Waterloo. Res Policy 37(8):1175–1187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carayannis EG, Meissner D, Edelkina A (2017) Targeted innovation policy and practice intelligence (TIP2E): concepts and implications for theory, policy and practice. J Technol Transf 42(3):460–484CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Centra JA (1983) Research productivity and teaching effectiveness. Res High Educ 18(4):379–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chavas J-P, Barham B, Foltz J, Kim K (2012) Analysis and decomposition of scope economics: R&D at US research universities. Appl Econ 44:1387–1404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cohn E, Rhine SLW, Santos MC (1989) Institutions of higher education as multi-product firms: economies of scale and scope. Rev Econ Stat 71(2):284–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Curi C, Daraio C, Llerena P (2013) University technology transfer: how (in)efficient are French universities? Camb J Econ 36(3):629–654CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Daraio C, Bonaccorsi A, Geuna A, Lepori B, Bach L, Bogetoft P, Cardoso MF, Castro-Martinez E, Crespi G, Fernandez de Lucio I, Fried H, Garcia-Aracil A, Inzelt A, Jongbloed B, Kempkes G, Llerena P, Olivares M, Pohl C, Raty T, Rosa MJ, Sarrico CS, Simar L, Stig Slipersaeter M, Teixeira Pedro N, van den Eeckaut P (2011) The European university landscape: a micro characterization based on evidence from the Aquameth project. Res Policy 40(1):148–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Davies S, Hammack FM (2005) The channeling of student competition in higher education: comparing Canada and the US. J High Educ 76(1):89–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. de Grande H, de Boyser K, Vandevelde K, van Rossem R (2014) From academia to industry: are doctorate holders ready? J Knowl Econ 5(3):538–561CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Estermann T, Pruvot EB (2011) European universities diversifying income streams. European University Association, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  18. Estermann T, Nokkala T, Steinel M (2011) University autonomy in Europe II. The scorecard. European University Association, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  19. Etzkowitz H, Leydesdorff L (2000) The dynamics of innovation: from national systems and “Mode 2” to a triple helix of university-industry-government relations. Res Policy 29:109–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fagerberg J, Godinho MM (2005) Innovation and catching-up. The Oxford handbook of innovation. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 514–543Google Scholar
  21. Gackstatter S, Kotsemir M, Meissner D (2014) Building an innovation-driven economy – The case of BRIC and GCC countries. Foresight 16(4):293–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Geuna A, Muscio A (2009) The governance of university knowledge transfer: a critical review of the literature. Minerva 47(1):93–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Goddard J, Puukka J (2008) The engagement of higher education institutions in regional development: an overview of the opportunities and challenges. High Educ Manag Policy 20(2):11–41Google Scholar
  24. Gokhberg L, Meissner D, Sokolov A (2016) Foresight: turning challenges into opportunities. In: Gokhberg L, Meissner D, Sokolov A (eds) Deploying foresight for policy and strategy makers: creating opportunities through public policies and corporate strategies in science, technology and innovation. Springer International, Heidelberg, pp 1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hartl J, Lassnigg L, Unger M (2014) Higher education institutions and the knowledge triangle: improving the interaction between education, research and innovation. Institute for Advanced Studies, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  26. HEFCE (2011) Summative evaluation of the CETL programme (final report by SWQ to HEFCE and the Northern Ireland Department for Employment and Learning). Higher Education Funding Council for England, Bristol. Available at,1111,Eval,of,CETL/rd11_11.pdf. Accessed 14 Apr 2016
  27. Hervás Soriano F, Mulatero F (2010) Knowledge policy in the EU: from the Lisbon strategy to Europe 2020. J Knowl Econ 1:289–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hirvikoski T (2013) The knowledge triangle promoting innovation and multidimensional learning. In: Lappalainen P, Markkula M (eds) The knowledge triangle: re-inventing the future. Aalto University, Aalto, pp 43–52. Available at Accessed 23 June 2015
  29. IPP (2015a) Actor brief: higher education institutions (HEIs). Innovation Policy Platform. Available at Accessed 18 Jan 2015
  30. IPP (2015b) Module on universities and public research institutes. Innovation policy platform. Available at Accessed 18 Jan 2015
  31. Kostić M, Čadil V (2016) Knowledge triangle in the Czech Republic. TIP case study. OECD, Paris (unpublished draft document)Google Scholar
  32. Larédo P (2007) Revisiting the third mission of universities: toward a renewed categorization of university activities? High Educ Pol 20:441–456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lepori B (2008) Research in non-university higher education institutions. The case of the Swiss universities of applied sciences. High Educ 56(1):45–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Maassen P, Stensaker B (2011) The knowledge triangle, European higher education, policy logics and policy implications. High Educ 61:757–769CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Marginson S (2006) Dynamics of national and global competition in higher education. High Educ 52:1–39. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Marginson S, Considine M (2000) The enterprise university. In: Power, governance and reinvention in Australia. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  37. Markkula M (2013) The knowledge triangle: renewing the university culture. In: Lappalainen P, Markkula M (eds) The knowledge triangle: re-inventing the future. Aalto University, Aalto, pp 11–33Google Scholar
  38. Meissner D (2015a) Public-private partnership models for science, technology, and innovation cooperation. J Knowl Econ. doi: 10.1007/s13132-015-0310-3 (online, print version forthcoming). Available at Accessed 12 Oct 2016
  39. Meissner D (2015b) Developing ‘green thinking’ towards sustainability. Int J Soc Ecol Sustain Dev 6(3):4–7Google Scholar
  40. Meissner D, Gokhberg L, Shmatko N (2016) The meaning of doctorate holders for human capital development of nations. In: Auriol L, Gokhberg L, Shmatko N (eds) The science and technology labor force: the value of doctorate holders and development of professional careers. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 343–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mendoza P (2015) Industry-academia linkages: lessons from empirical studies and recommendations for future inquiry. In: Higher education: handbook of theory and research. Springer International, Heidelberg, pp 469–523Google Scholar
  42. Mowery DC, Sampat BN (2005) Universities in national innovation systems. In: Fagerberg J, Mowery DC (eds) The Oxford handbook of innovation. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  43. Murray FE (2012) Evaluating the role of science philanthropy in American research universities (NBER Paper № w18146). National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MACrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Muzio D, Brock DM, Suddaby R (2013) Professions and institutional change: towards an institutionalist sociology of the professions. J Manag Stud 50(5):699–721CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. OECD (2008) Tertiary education for the knowledge society (vols 1 and 2). OECD, ParisCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. OECD (2011a) Regions and innovation policy. OECD reviews of regional innovation. OECD, Paris. Available at Accessed 17 Aug 2016
  47. OECD (2011b) TIP discussion paper on place-based policies and the knowledge triangle. OECD, ParisGoogle Scholar
  48. OECD (2013) OECD reviews of innovation policy: Sweden 2012. OECD, Paris. Available at Accessed 17 Aug 2016
  49. OECD (2014) Science, technology and industry outlook 2014. OECD, ParisCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. OECD (2015) Main science and technology indicators. OECD, ParisGoogle Scholar
  51. OECD (2016) Science, technology and industry outlook 2016. OECD, ParisCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Oosterbeek H, van Praag M, Ijsselstein A (2010) The impact of entrepreneurship education on entrepreneurship skills and motivation. Eur Econ Rev 54:442–454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pirttivaara M, Laitala P, Miikki L, Kalman A (2013) Experiences in implementing knowledge triangle: cases. In: Lappalainen P, Markkula M (eds) The knowledge triangle: re-inventing the future. Aalto University, Aalto, pp 173–187Google Scholar
  54. Ponchek TJ (2016) To collaborate or not to collaborate? A study of the value of innovation from a sectoral perspective. J Knowl Econ 7(1):43–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Potì B, Reale E (2007) Changing allocation models for public research funding: an empirical exploration based on project funding data. Sci Public Policy 34(6):417–430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Proskuryakova L, Meissner D, Rudnik P (2015) The use of technology platforms as a policy tool to address research challenges and technology transfer. J Technol Transf 42(1):228–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rhoades G (1998) Managed professionals: unionized faculty and restructuring academic labor. SUNY Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  58. Robertson J, Bond C (2005) The research/teaching relation: a view from the edge. High Educ 50(3):509–535CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Salmi J (2007) Autonomy from the state vs. responsiveness to markets. High Educ Pol 20:223–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Schiavone F, Simoni MJ (2016) Prior experience and co-opetition in R&D programs. J Knowl Econ 7(3):819–835CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sjoer E, Norgaard B, Goosens M (2011) Implementing tailor-made CEE in theory and in practice. The knowledge triangle as a conceptual tool. In: Paper presented at the SEFI annual conference, Lisbon, 27–30 Sept 2011Google Scholar
  62. Sjoer E, Nørgaard B, Goossens M (2013) implementing tailor-made cee in theory and in practice: the knowledge triangle as a conceptual tool. In: Lappalainen P, Markkula M (eds) The knowledge triangle: re-inventing the future. Aalto University, Aalto, pp 53–72Google Scholar
  63. Stam E, Romme A, Roso M, van den Toren JP, van der Starre BT (2016). The knowledge triangle in the Netherlands: an ecosystem approach (draft case study for the OECD working party on innovation and technology policy). OECD, Paris (unpublished)Google Scholar
  64. Thorn K, Soo M (2006) Latin American universities and the third mission: trends, challenges and policy options. World Bank, Washington, DCCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Thune T, Børing P (2015) Industry PhD schemes: developing innovation competencies in firms? J Knowl Econ 6(2):385–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Toner P, Dalitz R (2012) Vocational education and training: the terra incognita of innovation policy. Prometheus 30(4):411–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. van Petegen W (2013) Lifelong learning strategy development. In: Lappalainen P, Markkula M (eds) The knowledge triangle: re-inventing the future. Aalto University, Aalto, pp 73–84Google Scholar
  68. Vargiu A (2014) Indicators for the evaluation of public engagement of higher education institutions. J Knowl Econ 5(3):562–584CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wallis C (2006) The multitasking generation. Time Mag 167(13):48–55Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Organization for Economic Cooperation and DevelopmentParis Cedex 16France

Personalised recommendations