Business Engagement with University Offerings

Carolin Plewa
University of Adelaide

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Balzhan Orazbayeva
Science-to-Business Marketing Research Centre

Arno Meerman

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Todd Davey
Institut-Mines Télécom Business School

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In recent years, university-industry cooperation has received substantial interest as a source of knowledge production as well as technological and scientific advancements contributing to society in a more meaningful way (D’Este et al., 2013; Rasmussen & Wright, 2015). The extensive literature on this topic has significantly improved our understanding, for example, in relation to different modes of cooperation (Davey et al., 2018), individuals involved in the collaborative activities (Bstieler et al., 2017), benefits and drivers (Galan-Murors & Plewa, 2016), and knowledge transfer processes on organisational level (Bekkers et al., 2008) among others.
Prolific research into university-industry engagement is however still being considered as relatively fragmented (Skute et al., 2017; Perkmann et al., 2013) by following distinct directions with a primary focus remaining on university or the interface, less so on business (Pavlin, 2016). Furthermore, while the terminology has changed in recent years from university collaboration or cooperation to engagement and engaged universities, researchers or practitioners have utilised this terminology loosely, warranting clarification to enable literature to go forward (Davey, 2017).
This presentation thus draws on the extensive research that has been conducted into customer and actor engagement in the marketing literature, offering an initial investigation into the role of affective, cognitive and behavioural engagement of business managers. Specifically, this research focuses on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Australia, given the importance of these organisations for the Australian economy.
Drawing on areas such as organizational and occupational psychology (Costa et al., 2014; Garcia-Buades et al., 2016), as well as education research (Reeve, 2012; Schaufeli et al., 2002), research into customer engagement has continued to soar over the last decade. Defined as “a psychological state, which occurs by virtue of interactive customer experiences with a focal agent/object within specific service relationships.” (Brodie et al., 2011, p. 258), customer engagement is commonly conceptualised as comprising three dimensions: cognitive, emotional, and behavioural. While cognitive engagement reflects the mental interaction with the object, such as the attention or concentration on the focal object (Dessart et al., 2016), emotional engagement refers to feelings such as enthusiasm, invoked by the focal object or experienced when interacting with the object (Brodie et al., 2013; Vivek et al., 2014). Finally, behavioural engagement comprise actions focused on the object, that go beyond purchasing behaviour (Jaakkola & Alexander, 2014; van Doorn et al., 2010), such as endorsement.
This presentation outlines findings of a survey of 106 Australian SMEs, specifically of managers within these organisations. To provide an overview over the characteristics of the sample, 34% of respondents are business directors, e.g. CEO or Managing Director, 12.3% or directors/managers responsible for university collaboration, with the remaining other managers. Businesses comprise 20.8% family business, 12.3% sole traders/partnership and 11.3% non-profit organisations. 48% of businesses have an annual turnover of under 2 million. The analysis focused on three dimensions of engagement, namely enthusiasm (affective), attention (cognitive) and endorsement (behavioural).
An initial independent samples t-test demonstrate significant differences across all fourteen examined university-industry cooperation activities. Indeed, examining the extent to which these activities are undertaken, mean differences between 2.2 and 3.3 exist for all activities when comparing engaged to non-engaged respondents (2.2-2.7 for affective, 3.0-3.3 for cognitive and 2.9-3.3 for behavioural). Further analysis utilising structural equation modelling demonstrates the particular role of cognitive engagement in the form of attention for advancing cooperation with universities, as well as the importance of perceived role congruence as a facilitating of engagement.
The research offers important theoretical and managerial implications, building a solid foundation for future research on business-university cooperation, with a specific focus given on business engagement.