Multidimensional development of the UIG framework: Analysis of the importance of differentiating themes from the perspectives of sector, personnel and project.
There have been a number of frameworks proposed for use across university, industry and government collaboration. Looking at the Triple Helix first theorized by Etzkowith and Levdesdorff (1995). 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 identify several factors that create barriers to effective collaboration. The present study has developed these areas into a more complete framework and contextualised the factors for each of the three sectors. A multilevel approach has been taken to understand the areas of difference in each sector, and between team members and stakeholder management levels, while incorporating a project approach across the traditional project components of phases and constraints.
The findings of this research are, therefore, 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 - and provide a profile for the first stage of the study. The data collection in the second and third stages of the study used a concurrent mixed-methods approach, guided by a conceptual framework developed for this study.
The second stage assessed the differentiating themes in the context of sector, participant, and project-level measures, to develop an understanding of their importance through a quantitative survey sample in Australasia. It 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 third stage of the study ran concurrently and was designed to explore the differentiating themes through the perceptions of individuals involved in collaborative research projects. Semi-structured interviews focussed on how both context and individual experience influence the themes. A representative sample of team members and stakeholder managers from each sector participated, with twenty interviews conducted. New differentiating themes were identified in this stage and added to the original framework; five new main themes of: collaboration, project management method, communication, internationalism and project mishaps, and five new subthemes of trust, contract management, task segregation, profitability and influencing.
The final stage of 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. The 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 increased the understanding of the complexity of the processes involved in UIG collaboration and developed a framework for further discussion.