Towards the Third Generation University

Towards the Third Generation University

Managing the University in Transition

J. G. Wissema

Universities are undergoing massive change, evolving from science-based, government-funded institutions into ‘international know-how hubs’ dubbed third generation universities, or 3GUs. J.G. Wissema explores this dramatic change, tracing the historic development of universities, and exploring the technology-based enterprises, technostarters and financiers for start-ups and young enterprises that are the main partners of these 3GUs. He goes on to illustrate that universities play a new role as incubators of new science or technology based commercial activities and take an active role in the exploitation of the knowledge they create. The book concludes with suggestions regarding the way in which changes in the university’s mission should be reflected in subsequent organisational changes.

Chapter 2: Contours of the Third Generation University

J. G. Wissema

Subjects: business and management, management and universities, organisation studies, education, management and universities


2.1 THE CAMBRIDGE PHENOMENON As a starting point of our speculations on the role and shape of the third generation university or 3GU, let us take a look at the developments in Cambridgeshire, UK. Thanks to the emergence of a substantial high-tech industry, this county has been transformed from one of England’s poorest areas into its second-richest. This extraordinary change occurred as a result of a strong interactive process with the University of Cambridge that was itself subjected to a modernisation process aimed at keeping this university amongst the world’s top. The two transformations together are named the Cambridge Phenomenon, and although universities like MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Stanford University in the USA saw similar developments earlier than Cambridge, we will take Cambridge as an example because the Cambridge Phenomenon was more explicitly part of a wider social and political development. The emergence of a high-tech industry stems from spinout activities of the university, and entrepreneurs who were drawn to the scientific and increasingly dynamic environment. Cambridge can trace its spinout activities back to companies such as Cambridge Instruments, established in 1881 by Horace Darwin (Charles Darwin’s son) and Pye Radio, founded in 1896 with links to Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory (taken over by Philips Electronics in 1960). Just after the Second World War other firms started to exploit the developments in electronics that occurred during the war. Cambridge then was a rural place with no other industry. In 1970 there were some 20 firms located there. Shortly...

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