Measuring Impact of Academia on Business and Society: Case of Latvia

Modris Ozolins
Riga Technical University

Elina Gaile-Sarkane
Riga Technical University

Deniss Sceulovs
Riga Technical University

Academia, business and governmental sector is interacting. Numerous different models have been developed to illustrate and explain that interactions. One of the most widespread model is the Triple Helix model developed by Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff (2000), Etzkowitz & Ranga (2011), another popular model created by Isenberg (2011, 2014) explains functioning of entrepreneurship ecosystem. The changes of operations of academic institutions regarding to interaction with business and society have been explored by Wissema (2009) Different other models explaining industry – academia – society interaction have been developed, as well.

In order to explore deeper functioning of industry - academia interaction mechanism, RTU scientists are performing research in finding measurements of impact of academic and scientific institutions on entrepreneurship and fostering economic activities in general. Although, there are variety of models and measurements already developed, they cannot be considered universal due to variety of political circumstances and economic models of countries.

To identify the stimulus and barriers influencing Industry – Academia cooperation, a comprehensive research have been performed. The systematic literature review, series of interviews of stakeholders, questionnaires, focus groups have been executed. The research used an interpretative paradigm of research that considers human activity as a social phenomenon that manifests itself in a particular social environment and context and is closely related to the researcher's interest in the research subject (Cohen et al., 2007). The study is based on the combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods.

About 50 different industry - academia - society interaction models have been identified, 74 barriers and stimulus impacting different industry - academia - society cooperation were identified as a result of 50 interviews and 850 questionnaires and two focus groups.
The cooperation barriers and stimulus have been divided in 9 groups and ranked according to their importance
The major barriers hindering cooperation are as follows:
• Lack of resources HR, time and money for both sides - (less for business)
• Communication problems – lack of information about cooperation offers (universities), lack of information about needs (business)
• Lack of general interest in cooperation (both sides)
• Low motivation of university personnel (students, faculty, researchers) in initiating and performing cooperative activities
• Lack of appropriate competences and/or infrastructure at the academia
• Unclear intellectual property rights (business is even more concerned about IPR than academia)
• Bureaucracy, complicated organizational procedures, slow process (particularly if external funding is involved)
• Lack of One Stop Agency (at academia)

The following major factors stimulating cooperation have been identified:
• Opportunity to contribute to competence development of potential employees (attraction/ selection of best young talents for business and governmental institutions)
• Possibility to attract external finance (both sides)
• Reliable, trustful relations (people to people)
• Ability to adjust involvement of employees (business) in cooperation projects (involvement can be regulated according to the real needs (min/ max))
• Possibility to get cheap solution (by using students as a workforce)
• Clear communication (clear offer from academia/clear request from business)
• Prestige (value for society, PR for both sides, internship, recruitment for graduates)
• Minimizing bureaucracy
• Life-long learning – professional growth for both parties
• Additional benefits to HEI-s (state financed students, extra finance, new study programs etc.)

Number of activities based on the barriers and stimulus identified have been proposed. Among them – changes in legislation and regulations related to IPR, election and promotion of academic personnel, minimizing bureaucracy etc. Improving the financing mechanism of universities and scientific institutions have been suggested. Particular methodological and financial support should be paid to cooperation activities fostering entrepreneurial activities, including creation of startups and spinoffs. Publicity of academia – industry success stories have been suggested as important tool encouraging cooperation.

Although the number of proposals can and should be implemented independently, the necessity for comprehensive model stimulating industry – academia- society cooperation have been identified. To do that, the next stage of the research will particularly focus on metrics and measuring of influence of academia on business and society. Particularly, measurements and indicators will be further explored. Different approaches of measuring the impact will be reviewed and evaluated. Based on that, the new generation industry – academia- society model will be proposed.