The university-industry collaboration in doctoral programs shaped by the actors

Patrícia Santos

Luísa Veloso

Teresa Patrício

In Europe there is an increasing recognition of the possible contributions of PhDs to society and the knowledge economy. This is visible in the Lisbon Agenda and the Europe 2020-strategy and the Bologna Process (Bartelse & Huisman, 2008; Kottmann, 2011). Consequently, there has been an increase in public investment in doctoral education and its diversification, as well as the promotion of the relationships between doctoral programs and industry advocated by national governments. This is also the case in Portugal.
The objective of this communication is to know the role of the relations and the joint experiences of the different actors in the university-industry collaboration in the doctoral programs. To do this, we realize a partial analysis of the results of a survey to the directors of the doctoral programs in Portugal about the university-company collaboration in these programs. This analysis will be based on 244 cases (response rate 42.9%) in the different domains of knowledge (Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, Engineering and Technology Sciences, Medical and Health Sciences, Natural Sciences, Exact Sciences, Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences).
The analysis shows that the initiative to establish a collaboration between the doctoral program and the company is mainly the result of an individual action - of the academic, the doctoral students, of the company's human resources - and the organizational or governmental initiatives are residual. It also shows that previous experiences of collaboration (university-company and director-company), especially in the scope of research, are, on the one hand, explanatory factors of the collaborative processes, being an aspect that facilitates the establishment of collaboration in the programs of but also interferes with the greater diversity of collaborative activities. On the other hand, they are prime aspects in the success of university-company collaborations, interfering in the results and effects for the actors involved, especially for doctoral students. They are related, therefore, to the acquisition of knowledge by the doctoral students, their applicability and relevance, with the transfer of knowledge to the company and, finally, with the perception of their employability in the private sector.
Thus, there are chains of subsequent collaborations, possibly indicative of long-term partnerships, which show the importance of relational closeness as a source of trust and commitment, but also of cultural proximity to greater understanding. The importance of communication between partners is another important aspect that can benefit the collaboration process and the doctorate itself. The results indicate that the greater the number of meetings between actors, the more diverse is collaboration in terms of collaborative activities, with positive implications in the processes of transfer of knowledge, the development of transferable skills by the PhD student and their motivation to finish the degree. These factors ultimately strengthen the sustainability and continuity of collaboration.