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NEW RESEARCH | Collaborative projects create more impact than other research

Universities and companies collaborate in research projects
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When universities conduct research together with companies, it leads to more technological innovations than traditional university research. This according to a new doctoral thesis from the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg.

Most commonly, research takes place within the four walls of a university. But when research is carried out in collaborative projects between universities and companies, it not only takes on a different form – the impact of the research is also greater.

– In my doctoral thesis, I examined 184 professors’ publications between 2000 and 2018. “Of the approximately 8,500 publications they made in total during the period, almost 18 percent are based on collaborative projects,” says Viktor Ström of the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg, who has studied the impact of research in electrical engineering.

Three key factors

To study the scientific and technological impact of the research results – both those from collaborative research and those from traditional university research – Viktor Ström studied three main factors: the scientific journal in which the research was published, the number of citations received from academia and the number of citations from patent applications.

– When a patent is based on certain research, the inventor must cite that research.

In parallel with his doctoral studies, Viktor Ström has worked part-time as a research manager in industry, specifically at Esmaeilzadeh Holding. Photo: Isac Lundmark.

More citations – but in ‘poorer’ journals

The thesis shows that research projects carried out in collaboration between universities and companies receive more citations from scientific publications and from patent applications than those carried out solely within universities.

– The fact that results from collaborative research are more often cited means that they are considered more valuable for future research and technology development than traditional research.

– At the same time, I have noticed that the results are less likely to be published in high-ranking, slightly “fancier” journals. This can be partly explained by the fact that professors who have worked in collaboration with companies actively focus on getting their results published in journals that have a better fit for their research, rather than those with the highest academic ranking. It is controversial to measure impact solely based on a journal’s ranking, says Viktor Ström.

Tensions in cooperation

Although collaborative research has more impact than other research, there is a downside – it is often fraught with tensions. This is because the parties often have different objectives for cooperation.

– Academia wants to create new knowledge and disseminate it. Industry, on the other hand typically enters into research projects to develop new technologies and capitalize on them. Such tensions can result in the termination of collaborations or that the results are not published.

Important to strengthen ties

But there are always solutions to overcome potential conflicts, says Viktor Ström, emphasizing the importance of strong ties between academia and industry.

– The results of my dissertation suggest that collaborative projects are positive. So, I think it is important to give researchers greater opportunities to move between the different spheres. It brings knowledge in both directions and creates more understanding of each other – which in turn strengthens the ties and leads to better research,” says Viktor Ström.


Viktor Ström’s advice for strong collaborative projects:

To universities and businesses:

  • Avoid tensions by clarifying expectations for the project and having a clear division of roles from the start. Involving dual-affiliated researchers can be particularly valuable in facilitating this work and ensuring effective collaboration.
  • Continue to cooperate if cooperation has been successful. This leads to better cooperation and reduced risk of conflict, but also to a deeper understanding of the other party.

To policymakers:

  • Promote and support collaborative research between academia and industry, facilitating innovation and knowledge dissemination on a broader scale.

More about the thesis:

Viktor Ström will defend his dissertation on March 26, 2024 at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg. with the thesis Engineering lmpact: Analyzing the Scientific and Technological Outcomes of Collaborative Research between Universities and Firms. The professors included in the study are active at Chalmers, Lund University, KTH, Linköping University and Uppsala University.

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