A study of the industry/university/government (UIG) collaborative project organisation : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Management at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
Research projects are a subset of project management that is gaining attention. Primarily driven by the need for innovation to boost economic growth. This need has brought with it an impetus for researchers to work together between enterprises and gain the benefits of cross-sector collaboration. The surge of interest has been attributed to the increased importance of collaboration between university, industry and government, theorized by Etzkowith and Levdesdorff (1995) and termed the Triple Helix. Their work led to the recognition that successful innovation depends upon the effective selection and management of the research project portfolio and the research partners. Studies in this area largely focus on how well the relationships are either working or not working, and there is little published literature that seeks to understand what is particular to each of these environments that causes difficulties when working together across the ‘cultural gap’ (Kirkland, 2010).
Existing studies have identified several key differentiators that create barriers to effective collaboration. The present study aims to develop these areas into a more complete framework and contextualise the factors (in the present research called ‘differentiating themes’) for each of the three sectors. A multilevel approach was taken to understand the areas of difference between team member and key informant participant levels, while incorporating a project approach across the traditional project components of phases and constraints.
The findings of this research are based on a thematic analysis of the current literature. Nine broad themes of: funding, project, leadership, teamwork, completion, scientific endeavor, intellectual property, ethics and career, were further divided into sixteen subthemes. These describe the main areas of difference – or tensions between the sectors involved in the collaboration. The data collection was guided by a data collection model developed for this study.
The study also measured the perceived outcomes of the collaborative effort, using the Strategic Alliance Formative Assessment Rubric (SAFAR), developed by Gajda (2004), which seeks to capture growth in a collaboration over time, and is used to measure both the inputs and outputs of the collaboration. The survey yielded 94 responses.
Semi-structured interviews focussed on how both context and individual experience influence the themes, using a representative sample of team members and key informants from each sector, with twenty interviews conducted in both New Zealand and Australia. New differentiating themes were identified through the interviews and added to the original framework: main themes of collaboration, project management method, communication, internationalism and project mishaps, and subthemes of trust, contract management, task segregation, profitability and influencing.
The study explored the impact of the differentiating themes as either contributors or influencers to the collaboration, as well as their impact on pre-project, project, and post-project phases in a framework for use by all parties involved in the UIG.
The study has added to our current understanding of this project type through the development of a more encompassing framework, taking in multiple themes within the UIG collaborative style project. It has produced findings that consider the influencing dynamics of the sectors and participants addressed, from the perspective of both collaboration and project level determinants including the importance of collaborative outcomes.
The study highlights the formation of collaborations, ongoing influences, and the differences found which account for many of the barriers to both start-up and ongoing collaborative development. This study also highlights the need to develop strategies for collaboration including between sector strategies to advance the benefits of collaboration, performance measures that reward collaboration, and the necessity to understand and accommodate the outcomes needed by all participants. The study has also increased the understanding of the complexity of the processes involved in UIG collaboration.