Project 1.3

Higher education’s engagement with industry: metrics and indicators of boundary spanning UK academics

The aim of this project is to investigate how and to what extent UK universities and industry are involved in person-based research and development interactions, as well as the effects of these interactions in different contexts (e.g. the flow of knowledge from academia to industry, student employability, or curricula design).

Project team


Person-based skills and knowledge are among the most important determinants of higher research and development (R&D) productivity and innovation performance within advanced economies. Talented students, high-quality graduates, researchers and R&D staff are key assets of today’s ‘knowledge-based’ economies.

Mutually rewarding ties and productive interactions between universities and firms are a crucial feature in ‘knowledge utilisation spaces’ underlying these economies. The ‘human factor’ is of pivotal importance. World-class university systems, especially those within knowledge-intensive, open economies like the UK, are characterised by productive ‘impact pathways’ that translate science-based knowledge and know-how to commercial exploitation of research results or other societal applications.

Much of the previous research on university-industry interactions focused on commercialisation of research, driven by an increasing interest in joint R&D projects between universities and companies, consultancy work undertaken by academic researchers, university spin-off companies, and several other forms of entrepreneurial activities involving close professional relationships between academic researchers and their counterparts in the private sector.

Much less attention has been paid to PhD students, junior researchers, lecturers and professors at universities active in the ‘hybrid organisational space’ existing between universities and industry. This project aims at shedding more light on issues related to this particular type of interaction: basic research cooperation, mobility of students or staff across sectoral boundaries (university sector and business sector) or geographical borders (domestic, foreign), joint or dual appointments and R&D networks.