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Wishful thinking? Towards a more realistic role for universities in regional innovation policy

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Louise KemptonORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Routledge, 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Since the 1990s it has become a prevalent convention among regional policy makers that universities are central actors in regional innovation through delivery of their core research and teaching missions. This is underpinned by some key assumptions – that universities are key to successful regional innovation systems; that they are willing and able to contribute to it; and that where barriers exist these can be overcome. This paper will argue that the importance of universities for regional innovation is probably overstated, that their internal structures, policies and processes often impede their involvement in practice, and that external barriers to university engagement in regional innovation are significant, deeply rooted and difficult to overcome. It will also challenge the dependence on a small number of case studies of success that were the results of inimitable sets of circumstances as a ‘blueprint’ for other regions and their universities. Drawing on evidence from the existing literature this paper will present an analysis that aims to help policy makers better understand the forces that impede universities from meaningful regional engagement in order to support more realistic strategy development in the future.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kempton L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Planning Studies

Year: 2019

Volume: 27

Issue: 11

Pages: 2248-2265

Online publication date: 20/06/2019

Acceptance date: 02/06/2019

Date deposited: 19/09/2018

ISSN (print): 0965-4313

ISSN (electronic): 1469-5944

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2019.1628183


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