The establishment, evolution, and sustainability of University-Firm relations

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Luís Pinheiro
Aurora Teixeira
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Existing studies on University-Firm (U-F) relations are still excessively centred on the advantages which firms are able to obtain from relations with Universities, failing to take into account the benefits that potentially go to Universities from such links. This paper intends to fill this gap by empirically studying the process of the establishment, evolution, and sustainability of the U-F relations in an open innovation context. Using the case study methodology, we empirically demonstrate how relations between a firm (Brisa) and Higher Education institutions (namely, ISEL - Instituto Superior de Engenharia de Lisboa) were established, how they evolved and have been sustained over time, placing special emphasis on the issue of the mutual benefits derived from these links. Face-to-face interviews with the keyplayers at Brisa and ISEL, complemented with an extensive analysis of secondary sources, allowed us to conclude that establishing connections between the two entities is a more complex and time-consuming process (requiring large relational and resource investment on both parts) than that which existing literature conveys. Besides the recognized gains for firms when they adopt a more open-led perspective of innovation, our study (also) highlights the benefit deriving to the Universities from links to companies. It is mainly due to the existence of mutual benefits that U-F relations are preserved in the long-term or, in other words, are sustainable.