2 - Knowledge transfer between Universities and Business

2.1 - Creating technology centres with mixed capital


The elements which originate in the productive system and constitute the necessary stimulant for centres for the generation and transfer of knowledge are twofold. Firstly, financial resources, which originate mostly from public funding, but are nevertheless clearly insufficient if they are not combined with adequate entrepreneurial initiatives, and secondly, information on the specific needs and problems which limit growth and the ability of Companies to improve their processes and/or products.

As an alternative to exclusive reliance on public funding, there are many examples of mixed capital research centres, created and funded jointly by Universities and Business. The participation of Companies in these centres guarantees an applied research approach which is market-oriented, whilst the participation of Universities means excellence in terms of personnel as well as scientific and technical rigor in the tasks undertaken.


COMET Competition Centres (Austria)

This is a financing initiative designed to improve cooperation between the business and research sectors. At present, there are 18 such centres in operation, with around 150 members and 300 Companies participating. COMET centres (formerly Kplus) are separate legal entities which are generally run as limited liability companies. They are set up as permanent organisations although budgets are established for a limited period of 7 years. During this time they are subject to periodic scientific and business evaluations to ensure that their results are in line with those established by the Universities and the Business sector. In the case of not reaching the levels of excellence required they are dismantled. On average 60% of their financing comes from public funds (including Universities), whilst the other 40% is provided by private Companies.

One of the most highly respected is the Know Centre, in Graz, which focuses on ICT research and has developed highly innovative solutions for knowledge management. 50% of the funding for the centre comes from the Graz University of Technology, 10% from a public research institute and 40% from two Austrian multinational software companies. It was created in 2001 and due to its success it was refinanced in 2008 for the period 2008-2015.

Red Steinbeis (Germany)

The Steinbeis Transfer Network was created in the German region of Baden-Württemberg, with the aim of promoting the transfer of knowledge by creating a network of regional Companies which operate at a national and international scale. The region’s productive sector, universities, research institutes and local development agency all play an active managerial role in this public-private initiative, which was conceived as a powerful mechanism to accelerate the process of innovation and promote collaboration in R&D&i, focusing particularly on providing support to SMEs. In 2010, 810 Companies were integrated into the network, and the turnover generated by R&D&i, consulting and training services for members amounted to €124 million, with 1,410 employees, 689 of whom were university researchers. The network is characterised by its complex organisational structure, comprising 6 well defined but interrelated business areas.

Implementation process

Agents required for implementation

The implementation of this recommendation requires collaboration, especially financial, between one or more Companies with Universities and Public Administrations, in order to create joint centres. The co-financing by all three parties would facilitate closer, more stable partnerships.

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  1. http://www.ffg.at/content.php?cid=62 - KPlus Competence Centre, Austria.
  2. http://www.know-center.tugraz.at/ - Know-Center (Österreichs Kompetenzzentrum für Wissensmanagement und Wissenstechnologien), Austria.
  3. http://www.stw.de/en/home.html?no_cache=1 - Steinbeis, Germany.