A recommended business model for industry-academia collaborative science & technology research centres within Australian and New Zealand universities
Thesis DisciplineEngineering Management
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Universities in Australia and New Zealand have a key role to play as knowledge generators and educators in the transition to the knowledge economy that is being driven by science and innovation. Research universities of the 20th century are transforming into entrepreneurial universities of the 21st century to deliver on missions around research, education and socio-economic impact. Industry–academia collaborative science and technology centres are increasingly becoming the vehicle of choice for universities to deliver knowledge economy impact in pursuit of this transition. However, without guidance through a business model framework for centres specifically designed for universities, these centres will continue to suffer from the lack of a robust foundation, which may render them non-viable beyond their initial seed funding. The objective of this research is to develop a business model recommended for industry–academia collaborative science and technology research centres within Australian and New Zealand universities. This research has been performed with the researcher as a participant-observer conducting insider-led research across three Australian and New Zealand (ANZ) field-site universities from 2005 to 2016. The field-site universities were: (1) University of Canterbury in New Zealand; (2) Macquarie University in Australia; and (3) Monash University, also in Australia. This is in addition to a major longitudinal case study of an industry–academia collaborative research centre, the Electric Power Engineering Centre (EPECentre), at the University of Canterbury over 2005–2011. The research has utilised a mixed-method research approach, which was qualitatively led using modified Grounded Theory. Furthermore, interviews have been conducted with senior representatives from industry, university and government in order to test the final research findings and to determine the feasibility of the recommended business model. In parallel with the research, the findings have been applied and validated in practice with 12 centres within ANZ, which has demonstrated the practical utility of this model. The recommended business model is found to have four dimensions: (1) structure; (2) interactions; (3) finance; and (4) activity. The four dimensions have been visualised using the metaphor of a wind turbine generator (WTG), which enables simple cross-comparison between centres in universities. A WTG is also symbolic of sustainability in the modern world, given that the major challenge for many centres is to be viable beyond core establishment funding or when the operating environment poses challenges. Ultimately, the viability of a centre is determined by the value it delivers to stakeholders in industry, the university and government. Indeed, business model theory has not been applied to industry–university research centres previously, making this research the first study of its kind for ANZ universities. With further research, the model developed has potential to be formulated into a weighted four-dimensional Centre Viability Index, for the purpose of assessing and improving new and existing industry–academia collaborative centres within ANZ. Overall, the success of industry–academia collaborative centres within ANZ universities can play a key role in the transition of ANZ into the knowledge economy and, in order to do that, these centres need a robust business model framework that has been customised and validated for ANZ.