Special Issue THJ ” Agents of change in university-industry-government-society relationships” – Call for papers

Call for Papers

Guest-Editors: Prof. Liudvika Leišytė

Vogelpothsweg 78, TU Dortmund

44227 Dortmund, Germany

E-mail: *email address protected*

and Assoc. Prof. Maximilian Fochler

E-mail: *email address protected*


Special Issue of the Triple Helix Journal:  Agents of change in university-industry-government-society relationships

University-industry-government collaborations and relationships – as theorized by the Triple Helix Model among others – have been analyzed in a plethora of innovation, higher education and STS studies. Most of these studies have focused on national, regional and institutional levels, examining the structures of interaction as well as the formal and informal linkages created in collaborations. More recent elaborations of the helix model have also pointed to the importance of society and societal actors beyond those institutionalized in universities, industry and government. They emphasize the importance of integrating a perspective on the role of the media, publics and civil society actors to understand innovation in knowledge economies. In recent debates, the concept of responsible research and innovation broadens the range of potential actors in innovation. This asks for a deeper understanding of the characteristics of these actors as well as of the mechanisms by which they exert influence over institutional development.

On the levels of organizations and organizational fields, existing literature on university-industry-government-society relationships has focused on the creation and institutionalization of technology transfer structures. A range of studies have explored the role of governments in setting up policies to facilitate interaction between university and industry, such as patenting regulation or sectoral policies for biotechnology or nanotechnology. The role of funding agencies promoting the interaction between university and industry has merited attention and has increased our understanding of the potentials and limitations of specific funding mechanisms. Significant work has emphasized the role of venture capitalists in promoting academic entrepreneurship. However, despite this plethora of studies, we still know very little about the locus and dynamics of agency when it comes to initiating change in university-industry-government-society interactions in innovation processes.

Existing contributions on university-industry-government-society relationships are extremely useful to understand the drivers and processes of innovation in different countries. However, they mostly focus on the demand side, such as for example on the implementation of innovation policies via structural arrangements. The supply side of the story – the agency of knowledge producers in academia, industry, but also government and society – has to some extent been overlooked.  Even though universities are understood as playing a crucial role in innovation, we know very little about the role of key actors who influence and change institutional arrangements in and around universities, e.g. by lobbying governmental actors to change funding regimes and regulation, by engaging in community interaction with civil society, or by in creating nascent firms and platforms for exchange between various actors in student or academic entrepreneurship.

Here we turn to the notion of institutional entrepreneurs (DiMaggio, 1988) who effect change in university-industry-government-society interactions using their skills, resources and capital. We find this concept helpful as it allows for situated understandings of change agents who create or disrupt institutions at different levels: ”Institutional change agents may have intended or not to change their institutional environment- but they initiate, and actively participate in the implementation of changes that diverge from existing institutions” (Battilana, Leca & Boxenbaum, 2009, p. 70). In this, understanding the characteristics and strategies of actors and the conditions under which they create new or disrupt existing institutions are of particular interest. In university and other public research organizations settings elite academics, charismatic teachers, student representatives as well as managers and leaders at different organizational levels can be important change agents, either as individuals or parts of collectives such as e.g. a rectors’ association. In industry, serial entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, corporate managers or chambers of commerce could be some example of possible agents of change. In government influential politicians at various levels as well as governmental intermediary agencies can be seen as important actors in shaping triple helix relations. In civic society we could identify media, opinion leaders or social movements as some of possible actors that may reshape institutional arrangements around the helixes.

The possible questions addressed by the contributions could be:

Who are the key agents of change within specific institutions engaged in university-industry-government-society relationships? What affiliations and capabilities do they have and develop over time?

How do these institutional entrepreneurs attempt to create new or to disrupt old institutions in university-industry-government-society relationships, and at which levels? Which strategies do they employ?

Under which conditions do these actors succeed or fail to create new or disrupt old institutions in university-industry-government-society relationships?

What institutional work is carried out by institutional entrepreneurs at universities to promote university-civil society interaction?

What is the role of cross-cutting networks of professionals (e.g. The American University Technology Managers Association or chambers of commerce) – in facilitating the interaction between the helixes?

How do the dynamics and conditions of institutional entrepreneurship in university-industry-government-society relationships differ, both vertically between regional, national and global levels, as well as horizontally between different national and regional cases?


15 June, 2018- Submission of abstracts and articles to the guest editors for peer-review.

10 September, 2018 – Submission of revised abstracts and articles to the guest editors for peer-review

31 October, 2018 – Final submission

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