A Comparative Analysis
Chapter 2: The Reorganization of Research
Sabrina Colombo 2.1 HOW UNIVERSITIES INTERACT WITH THE EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENT The research activities of the HE institutions have a tangible impact on a country’s socio-economic system (at both the national and local level). Research can mean innovation but also the regeneration of economically depressed areas. Moreover, research can also provide institutions with important policy guidelines. The changes that have occurred in the HE institutions go mainly in two directions: applied research and basic research. Applied research is considered to be more directly linked to the needs of the external actors who commission or contribute to carrying out projects with immediate practical applications. Instead, basic research (the so-called blue sky research) is based more on the classic approach to science, namely, scientific discoveries that are cumulative and applicable in the long term but with no immediate application. These two directions have been influenced by measures adopted by the European governments since the 1980s. Applied research acquired greater legitimacy due to the university reforms and cuts in public funding for HE institutions. Moreover emphasis was put on the need to collaborate with the productive system so that the European countries could improve their economic performance and become more competitive at the international level and promote economic development at the local level. Collaboration with the external actors can come about through commissioned research or collaborative research. These two models of interaction can therefore be called the ‘contractual model’ and the ‘cooperative model’. The first refers to all those relations in which the HE...
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