Supporting the transfer of ideas, knowledge and technology between Higher Education Institutions and other societal actors – the so-called «third mission» of universities – has long been a focus of higher education and science policy. The idea behind it: Through structured exchange processes between members of the knowledge triangle (education, research and innovation) technological or social innovations can be jointly identified and further developed – much in the spirit of open innovation and open science.

At European Union level, the idea of a mutual knowledge transfer is implemented, for example, in the Knowledge and Innovation Communities of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). In Germany, too, the public support of knowledge transfer has gained even further momentum in recent years. In addition to the major research funding programmes in the higher education sector such as the Excellence Strategy, the funding line «Innovative University» has precisely this focus. Starting from 2016, it is targeted at small and medium-sized universities in particular, but also universities of applied sciences. Universities get support to strategically develop and implement their profile and structures for the transfer of ideas, knowledge and technology. The focus here is on networking with the regional eco-system of the universities.

Technopolis was commissioned by the BMBF in early summer 2020 to support the further development of «Innovative University» with a formative evaluation. Together with two partners from Germany and Austria, we first examine how current conceptual debates about the term «knowledge transfer» are taken up in the design of «Innovative Hochschule» and how the programme itself shaped the discourse. The analyses focus on evaluations of the transfer concepts of the universities and university networks, on-site visits to the funded universities as well as interviews and online surveys of regional stakeholders. In order to be able to work out the effect of the funding measure, we are also conducting a control group analysis on developments at comparable nonfunded universities. The current accompanying measures of the project executing agency are also examined.

Florian Berger and his team are pleased to be able to support BMBF in the further development of this important programme until the end of 2022. 

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