Individual and Sub-organizational Factors Affecting Industry Membership in University-based Cooperative Research Centers.

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Title: Individual and Sub-organizational Factors Affecting Industry Membership in University-based Cooperative Research Centers.
Author: Rivers, Drew Charles
Advisors: Katherine W. Klein, Committee Member
Denis O. Gray, Committee Chair
Lynda Aiman-Smith, Committee Member
Adam W. Meade, Committee Member
Abstract: Since the early 1980s the US government through federal legislation has worked to increase public-private partnerships to help drive industrial innovation and economic progress (National Science Board, 2006). Cooperative Research Centers (CRCs) are one such mechanism, enabling industrial organizations to collaborate with both universities and government agencies. These university-based CRCs operate as linkage mechanisms (Gray, 1998), bridging the culture gap between academia and the private sector. Understanding the motivations and processes through which these partnerships initiate and evolve is important to their continued success. From existing research we know what environmental and organizational factors signal an increased likelihood for partnerships to occur. However, beyond these initializing conditions little is known about how organizations discover potential partners and subsequently decide whether to pursue a formal partnership arrangement. This current study applied a mixed methods approach to identify factors within organizations that could explain how industry-university partnerships happen. Two preliminary studies were conducted to explore pre-collaborative exchanges between university-based CRCs and their prospective member organizations. These first two stages of research revealed underlying communities of university researchers, industrial technologists, and government scientists. Within these communities reside networks of actors engaged in dynamic relationship exchanges that propagate formal partnership considerations. Further, semi-structured interviews with organization representatives brought to light a varied and often increasingly elaborate process regarding decisions to partner with university-based CRCs. The final stage of research administered a structured survey to a sample of industrial and public organizations. The decision process is described as it unfolds within organizations considering CRC membership. Further, a series of regression models identified the unique and relative effects of decision outcome predictors across several domains of analysis. I found support for network-based perspectives on the development of industry-university partnerships. However, the influence of network relationships rested primarily on the initiation of the partnering decision. Technical and non-technical characteristics of the CRC, as well as sub-organizational and individual variables, were found to be most predictive of actual decision outcomes. Implications of this research for CRC directors, prospective member organizations, and policymakers are offered.
Date: 2009-04-23
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Psychology

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