Putting university-industry interaction into perspective: a differentiated view from inside South African universities
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Firms and economic policy makers need an enhanced understanding of universities, in terms of what academics value and how they interact, if they are to enhance collaboration around the generation and transfer of knowledge and technology between universities and industry. The literature increasingly focuses on identifying incentives and barriers within universities, but is largely limited to contexts in Europe and the USA, and favours individual over institutional determinants. The paper contributes by situating university-industry linkages within the total pattern of academic interaction with external actors, in diverse types of institutions. Empirically, it extends the literature to investigate trends in an immature national system of innovation in a late developing economy context, South Africa. The analysis maps the heterogeneity of academic engagement, focusing on firms, through principal component analysis of an original dataset derived from a survey of individual academics. It concludes that the incentives that drive academics and that block university-industry interaction in contexts like South Africa, are strongly related to universities' differentiated nature as reputationally controlled work organisations, and to the ways in which they balance and prioritise their roles in national development.