University-industry interactions: A comparative analysis of the influence of formal and informal university knowledge transfer mechanisms on innovation performance in firms in Ghana
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Knowledge transferred from universities is known to pass through many mechanisms to influence innovation in firms. Nonetheless, research on university knowledge transfer in less developed economies is not readily available in the extant literature. At the heart of this is a lack of analytical framework to guide university knowledge transfer in developing economies. The current study therefore elicits a comprehensive understanding of university knowledge transfer in the West African country of Ghana. The study adapts a generic integrated university knowledge transfer framework that suites the context of developing economies and evaluates how university knowledge transfer mechanisms influence innovation in firms in primary, manufacturing and service sectors in Ghana. To achieve the study aim, explanatory sequential mixed methods was employed from which the study contends that universities interactions with industry in Ghana are effective through both formal and informal mechanisms. However, the two are found not to directly lead to the ultimate results of innovation performance in firms and will have to be expedited through other means such as technology transfer offices, knowledge networks and collaborative research projects between universities and firms. In addition, the study shows that firms in different sectors of Ghanaian economy have some similarities as well as differences by which they acquire new knowledge from universities to significantly improve their products and services. These disparities in particular are explained accordingly by specific characteristics the sectors, pace of innovation adoption in each sector and greatly influenced equally by size, socio-cultural factors and general background of management staff in all sectors. Based on these, primary and manufacturing sectors firms are found to have comparatively weak relations with universities, whereas service sector firms have stronger interactions. The study concludes that interactions driving universities and industry are productive and worth pursuing as one of many instruments for innovative changes in all aspects of Ghanaian economy. The study suggests that knowledge generation players in Ghana need to have a well-defined national innovation agenda that seeks to facilitate and address sector specific needs. Significantly, the government of Ghana needs to create avenues for local firms, particularly small to medium scale enterprises in primary and manufacturing sectors to gain additional capabilities to absorb knowledge. Nevertheless, a stronger relationship between universities and firms in Ghana will by no means usher in the required knowledge for wealth and prosperity. Finally, the study recommends a rigorous adjustment in current universities’ physical and administrative structures to accommodate industry interactions and create knowledge that suits basic characteristics needs of individual sectors. Most of all, economic policies will have to be carefully designed and efficiently directed by dedicated experts to work to successful realisation of the country’s industrialisation objective. Lastly, more research will need to be conducted in the area of innovation policy effectiveness and impact evaluation for deeper understanding and to help to create ideal environment for productive research outcomes in all sectors of the economy.
PhD Thesis - School of Management
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