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The spatial profile of university-business research partnerships

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University-industry linkages have long been at the centre of academic and policy attention. In spite of the copious literature on different aspects of such linkages, there is still rather inconclusive evidence on both the specific nature of the interactions between universities and businesses and their regional/spatial dimension. This paper focuses on one particular type of linkage between university and business – joint research partnerships – and addresses two specific issues. Firstly, it investigates the extent to which research quality and geographical proximity bear an influence on the intensity of university-industry collaborations. Secondly, it explores the factors affecting the spatial profile (i.e. proximity versus distance) of university-business partnerships. On the basis of an original database on collaborative research grants awarded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) – integrated with other information sources – our findings generally support previous results highlighting the importance of geographical proximity in shaping university-industry collaborations. Yet, they indicate clearly that the spatial configuration of university-industry linkages is far from being a simple and uniform phenomenon, calling for greater caution when trying to apply “onesize- fits-all” and “picking winners” policy strategies.

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