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WORKING PARTNERSHIPS
IN HIGHER EDUCATION, INDUSTRY AND INNOVATION
FINANCIAL OR
INTELLECTUAL
IMPERATIVES
GLENDA KRUSS
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Published by HSRC Press
Private Bag X9182, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa
www.hsrcpress.ac.za
© 2005 Human Sciences Research Council
First published 2005
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Contents
List of tables and figures v
Preface vi
Acknowledgements ix
Abbreviations x
1 Mapping industry partnerships across the higher education sector 1
The aim of mapping partnerships 1
Designing a process to map partnerships across the sector 7
Analysing partnerships in the South African higher education
institutional landscape 14
Outline of this book 19
2 Describing partnerships in institutions with high technology capacity 21
Defining ideal types of partnership – drawing on the literature 21
Conceptions of partnership at the 18 institutions 26
Initiating partnerships 34
Coverage and contribution of partnerships 45
Products and outcomes of partnership 57
Summary 68
3 Patterns of partnership in the three high technology fields 73
The tension between financial and intellectual imperatives 73
Traditional forms of partnership 76
Dominant new forms of partnership 77
Entrepreneurial forms of partnership 79
‘Network’ forms of partnership 79
Mapping partnerships in the three fields of focus 81
Understanding forms of partnership 99
4 Facilitating and constraining industry partnerships in diverse
institutional contexts 101
Mapping institutional responses to partnership in high


technology fields 101
Harnessing innovation potential 107
Emergent entrepreneurialism 123
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‘Laissez faire’ aspirational 134
‘Laissez faire’ traditional 148
Higher education institutional responses to partnership 163
5 Emergent alternative partnership practices 167
Why and how do these institutions differ? 168
What are the emergent alternative approaches? 176
6 Innovation, partnerships and higher education 189
A national system of innovation? 190
Understanding partnerships within institutions 199
Facilitating or constraining partnerships in different kinds
of institutions 202
Appendix 1: Dimensions of partnership used in the design of instruments 209
Appendix 2: Institutional profile template 215
Appendix 3: Total number of active researchers in the three high technology
fields in each institution 220
Appendix 4: Total research output by higher education institutions 222
Appendix 5: NRF-rated scientists by higher education institutions 224
Appendix 6: Total higher education institution research income 226
Bibliography 229
Index 247
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List of tables and figures
Tables
Table 1.1 Assessing high technology capacity in this study 17
Table 2.1 Research income by source in the higher education sector,
1996–2000 46
Table 4.1 Defining features of ideal types of institutional response
to partnerships 105
Figures
Figure 2.1 A continuum of attitudes towards partnership with industry 34
Figure 3.1 Analysing forms of partnership in South Africa 75
Figure 4.1 Higher education institutional responses to partnership 102
Figure 4.2 Location of institutions by type of partnership response: high
technology capacity 164
Figure 5.1 Location of institutions by type of partnership response:
emergent alternatives 177
LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
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PREFACE
Working partnerships: Higher education,
industry and innovation in South Africa
An ideal vision of the role of research partnerships between higher education
and industry in a rapidly globalising knowledge economy is becoming
prevalent. However, there is a great deal of dissonance between this vision and
the realities of research, innovation and development in the South African
context, characterised by fragmentation, inequalities and unevenness.
Thus, we have a major knowledge gap about partnerships in South Africa. We
have a general agreement that they are a social and economic ‘good’ and that
it is desirable that collaborative partnerships and networks are formed. We
have a great deal of literature on the possible forms they take in other
countries, their benefits and difficulties. However, we have absolutely no sense
of the extent to which this vision is becoming actualised in South Africa.
Significantly, in the South African case, rather than a focus on measuring the
impact or understanding the ways in which specific features of partnerships
work in order to improve practice, there is a prior research concern to open
up the field and map out what exists, as a basis for more detailed investigation.
The study of necessity will be primarily an exploratory one, aiming to open
up the field and lay a basis for more detailed and in-depth investigations.
The Human Sciences Research Council’s research programme on Human
Resource Development has undertaken a project to explore the extent to
which the networked practices that are believed to characterise the knowledge
economy have indeed begun to penetrate South African higher education and
industry. Where networks and partnerships have developed, how have they
taken form and shape in the South African context, with specific national
policy and economic imperatives? To what extent is there evidence of
collaboration in knowledge generation, diffusion and/or application that will
ultimately contribute to innovation? In what ways has government succeeded
in promoting such partnerships? What are the kinds of changes and benefits
partnerships are bringing about in both higher education and industry?
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Three high technology bands have been identified as priorities for developing
a national system of innovation that will improve South Africa’s international
competitiveness and economic development. The relatively new high
technology fields of information and communication technology,
biotechnology and new materials development have been identified as most
likely to generate benefits for South Africa. These were selected as the
empirical focus for the study. Understanding the conceptions and practices of
research partnerships in each of these three fields will inform understanding
of responsiveness to high technology needs and innovation in South Africa.
This large-scale empirical study is primarily exploratory, aiming to open up
the field and lay down benchmark descriptions of the partnership and
network activity emerging in South African higher education and industry. It
does so through a series of audits and mapping exercises, and through a series
of in-depth case studies.
The study was conceptualised in terms of four distinct but closely inter-
related sub-studies or components. Each empirical study will be disseminated
in a separate title in the series, Working Partnerships in Higher Education,
Industry and Innovation.
Component One was largely conceptual. It provided an entry point into the
conceptual and comparative literature on higher education–industry
partnerships, as well as an introduction to the ‘state of the art’ in each of
the three high technology fields in South Africa, to lay a foundation for the
entire study.
Component Two aimed to illuminate government’s role in promoting
research partnerships by exploring the forms of government contribution
through the Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme
(THRIP) and the Innovation Fund, and the extent and nature of resultant
partnerships. Data was gathered on industry and higher education
beneficiaries, on the nature of co-operation at project level, and selected
measures of the outputs of the co-operation. The monograph, Government
incentivisation of higher education–industry research partnerships in South
Africa, showed how partnerships, networks and innovation are developing
amongst beneficiaries of government-incentivised funding in general, and in
the three high technology fields specifically.
PREFACE
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Component Three, this book, aimed to map the higher education landscape
in order to investigate the scale and form of research linkages and
collaborative practices between higher education institutions and industry in
each of the three fields. Given the uneven capacity of higher education
institutions and their differential historical legacies, and given different modes
of operation of different knowledge fields, it explores whether partnerships
develop and take different forms in different institutional and knowledge
contexts.
Component Four, entitled Creating Knowledge Networks, focuses on the
demand side, at enterprise level in industrial sectors related to the three high
technology fields. In a limited set of cases, we explore the dynamics of
partnerships in-depth, unpack their multi-linear, contingent and tacit
dimensions, and consider the impact on enterprise productivity, technological
innovation and knowledge production in each of the three fields.
Glenda Kruss
Project Leader
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Acknowledgements
There are many individuals and organisations that have contributed directly
and indirectly to the research study. First and foremost are the research
managers, faculty Deans and research project leaders at all 35 higher edu-
cation institutions, who gave generously of their time and insights, in a highly
pressurised context. The report is dedicated to their commitment and passion.
Second are all the expert consultants who contributed to inform our
understanding:
• of the three technology fields – Professor Rob Knutsen, Dr Butana
Mboniswa, Dr Bob Day and Tina James;
• of the international literature on partnerships and innovation – Dr Ansie
Lombard and Professor Johann Mouton;
• of current research activity in the three fields – Professor Johann Mouton
and his team at the Centre for Research in Science and Technology at the
University of Stellenbosch, Melt Van Schoor and Nelius Boshoff;
• of current institutional research profiles – the Human Sciences Research
Council team of Salim Akoojee, Ansie Lombard, Moeketsi Letseka.
Third are the researchers who conducted site visits and compiled richly
detailed reports on partnership at each institution – Matthew Smith, Trish
Gibbon, Ansie Lombard, Moeketsi Letseka, Salim Akoojee, Candice Harrison,
Lesley Powell, Tracy Bailey, Carmel Marock, Neetha Ravjee, Tembile Kulati,
George Subotzky, Paul Lundall, Carel Garisch and Gabriel Cele.
Fourth are the colleagues in the research programme on Human Resources
Development and the HSRC Press at the Human Sciences Research Council,
who provided intellectual, moral and practical support to enhance this book.
Professor Eddie Webster of the Sociology of Work programme at the
University of the Witwatersrand acted as critical reader, contributing to
deepen the thrust of the argument presented.
Finally, the study would not have been possible without the generous support
of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, particularly in the persons of
Courtenay Sprague and Narciso Matos. This publication was made possible
(in part) by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements
made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.
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Abbreviations
ARC Agricultural Research Commission
BRIC Biotechnology Regional Innovation Centre
CENIS Centre for Inter-Disciplinary Studies (now CREST)
CREST Centre for Research in Science and Technology (formerly CENIS)
CSIR Council for Scientific Research
CTP Committee of Technikon Principals
DACST Departments of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology
DoE Department of Education
DST Department of Science and Technology
DTI Department of Trade and Industry
GTZ German Agency for Technical Cooperation
HSRC Human Sciences Research Council
ICT Information and Communication Technology
IDRC International Development Research Centre
MRC Medical Research Council
NACI National Advisory Council on Innovation
NRF National Research Foundation
OECD Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
R&D Research and development
SANBI South African Bioinformatics Institute
SAPSE South African Post-Secondary Education
SAUVCA South African Universities Vice Chancellor’s Association
SMME Small, medium and micro enterprises
TESP Tertiary Education Support Programme
THRIP Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme
UNESCO United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
USPTO United States Patent Office
WORKING PARTNERSHIPS: FINANCIAL OR INTELLECTUAL IMPERATIVES
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CHAPTER ONE
Mapping industry partnerships
across the higher education sector
The aim of mapping partnerships
Higher education, innovation and development in global context
The higher education sector in South Africa currently faces myriad challenges,
with potentially conflicting demands pressing from multiple directions. This
is not a uniquely South African phenomenon. As Bullen, Robb and Kenway
argue, ‘the combined forces of globalisation and the global economy have
exerted pressure on higher education and research institutions to serve the
needs of the emergent knowledge economy’ (2004: 3). At its most general and
broadest level, that is what this book is about. It will contribute to our
understanding of the ways in which higher education institutions in the South
African context have responded to this pressure, to serve the needs of the
knowledge economy.
One of the strongest demands of new policy in South Africa, reflecting global
trends, is the demand that higher education institutions, as crucial sites of
knowledge production and technological innovation (Jansen 2004a), become
more responsive to social and economic needs and contribute to
development. The key assumption that lies at the heart of a knowledge
economy is that national productivity and competitiveness depend on the
capacity to generate, process and apply knowledge-based information
(Castells 1996). Hence, the capacity of a national higher education system to
generate, process and apply knowledge, to contribute to innovation, becomes
a critical issue.
The recent United Nations Human development report 2001 (UNDP 2001)
designed a Technology Achievement Index to capture how well a country as a
whole is participating in creating and diffusing technology and building a
high skills base throughout the population, and thus, its capacity to
participate in global technological innovation in a network era. South Africa
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was categorised as a ‘dynamic adaptor’ alongside Brazil, China, Indonesia and
Tunisia, in that there are important high technology industries and one
‘technology innovation hub’ in Gauteng, but the diffusion of old inventions
such as telephones and electricity is still slow and incomplete. South Africa
thus fares in the middle range, being ranked 39 of 72 ranked countries. It does
not have an impressive score on any of the indicators in the Index, whether it
be patents granted to residents, receipts of royalties and licence fees, and
diffusion of internet hosts, or the proportion of high and medium technology
exports, and the diffusion of old innovations or human skills in terms of
mean years of schooling or the gross tertiary science enrolment ratio.
Nevertheless, South Africa has strong aspirations to move up the global value
chain, to develop a national system of innovation. Innovation is defined as:
the application in practice of creative new ideas, which in many
cases involves the introduction of inventions into the marketplace.
In contrast, creativity is the generating and articulating of new
ideas. It follows that people can be creative without being
innovative. They may have ideas, or produce inventions, but may
not try to win broad acceptance for them, put them to use or
exploit them by turning their ideas into products and services that
other people will buy or use. (DACST 1996: 15)
This is seen as critical to the achievement of social, economic and political
goals, in a context of competing national demands for global economic
competitiveness, sustainable development and equity. As the Department of
Trade and Industry (DTI) has proclaimed in its Integrated Manufacturing
Strategy, competitiveness requires government to align a set of ‘fundamentals’
to steer the economy in its chosen direction, of ‘knowledge-intensive, value-
adding and employment-generating production’ (DTI 2002: 28). These
fundamentals include investment in research and development, innovation
and the assimilation of new technologies.
Technology achievement problems – summed up in the notion of an
‘innovation chasm’ between local industry, local research and international
technology sources – have been identified as key challenges to be addressed by
the Department of Science and Technology (DST) (see for example Adam
2003; DST 2002). Since 1994 there has been a concerted national push to
promote science and technology capacity across the country, with an
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impressive array of policy frameworks, new institutional structures and
funding incentivisation that are still too new to have born significant fruit.
Government has prioritised repositioning higher education to contribute to
global technological and economic competitiveness, with policy since 1994
strongly framed in terms of contributing towards the development of a
knowledge economy in South Africa, held in tension with the call to address
poverty and inequality – as one critical means of bridging the ‘innovation
chasm’. It will be argued that this policy framework offers creative
opportunities for higher education institutions and researchers.
Strategic alliances, networks, partnerships, linkages and collaborations
between higher education institutions and industry – as these relationships
are variously termed – have been identified as a primary means of addressing
higher education’s role in economic development. A core assumption of new
science and technology policy is thus the need to promote a ‘problem-solving,
multi-disciplinary, partnership approach to innovation as a mechanism of
growth and development’ (DACST 1996: 9). Again, this strategy is not unique
to South Africa, being promoted globally by the Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD 1996, 2000), with a similar policy
thrust in the countries South Africa looks to for policy inspiration, Australia
(Bullen et al. 2004), the United Kingdom (Her Majesty’s Treasury 2003),
Canada (Advisory Council on Science and Technology 1999) and the United
States (Tornatzky, Waugaman & Gray 2002).
In South Africa, there are attempts on the part of the state to foster such a
partnership approach between higher education, industry and science,
engineering and technology institutions (SETIs) that can promote
innovation, through funding incentivisation schemes such as the Technology
and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP) and the Innovation
Fund. An HSRC (2003) audit of the beneficiaries, functioning and products
and outcomes of THRIP and Innovation Fund projects in three high-
technology fields found that these partnerships have resulted in tangible
benefits, with significant advantages to both industry and higher education.
‘Partnership’ is seen to provide a key means for higher education institutions
to achieve greater responsiveness, to ensure that their research is better
utilised, their technology better transferred and their research more strategic
or applied. There is a widespread perception that partnerships are desirable
and can provide a means of income for institutions, in the face of shifting
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relationships with the state, and a new funding environment. The challenge is
framed as a dual one, to contribute to economic growth and to improved
quality of life for the citizens of South Africa.
There is a strong prescriptive trend in this policy discourse, and to a large
extent in the literature on the knowledge economy and partnerships. There is
an assumption that the ‘network’ ideal, or the ‘knowledge economy’ ideal, will
and must unfold if the country is not to be left behind, to ‘catch up’ with
global trends. Indeed, Muller (2001) has argued that the way in which South
African intellectuals have responded to the theory of the network society
proposed by Castells has been partial, in terms of their own political concerns
and without coming to terms with his central argument.
Increasingly, there is a recognition of the gap between the ideal promoted
globally in policy, and the reality of South African conditions, as a developing
country or ‘dynamic adaptor’. Castells himself warns that globalisation ‘has
unleashed extraordinary creativity and technological innovation, but the
contradictions of development are sharper than ever’ (2001: 19). South Africa,
it is clear, has a distinct historical legacy and pattern of socio-economic
inequality that will impact on the way it is able to pursue the ideal of a
‘knowledge economy’ or ‘network society’. However, we need greater
specificity and substance in making such an assertion in order to begin to
understand South Africa’s current and future development path.
To take the issue of partnerships specifically, we have very little sense of the
ways in which partnerships, strategic linkages, collaboration or networks in
fact do emerge in practice across the South African higher education system.
Are old forms of partnership continuing, or are new forms of partnership
emerging? Is there evidence of the ideal network form of trans-disciplinary,
collaborative partnership between industry and higher education in South
Africa? We have very little sense of the conceptions of partnership that exist,
of the ways in which partnerships are initiated or the ways in which they
operate, and what their typical outcomes and products are. And thus, we do
not understand the ways in which a ‘knowledge economy’ ideal is indeed
unfolding in the South African context, or whether there are uniquely South
African ways emerging to bridge the innovation chasm in ways that can meet
development goals – that is specifically what this book addresses.
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Investigating higher education–industry partnerships in South Africa
Such was the impetus that led to the present study in 2002. Research which
attempts to understand higher education responsiveness in South Africa, and
particularly the contribution of research to innovation and hence to economic
and social development, is slowly emerging (Cooper 2003; SAUVCA 2004;
Wickham 2002). A particular focus is the study of ‘technology transfer’
(Garduno 2003) or ‘research utilisation’ (Mouton, Bailey & Boshoff 2003), in
the face of the policy analysis of an ‘innovation chasm’ in South Africa.
The present study was motivated by the observation that there is a strong
imperative to develop partnerships between industry and higher education,
but we do not know the extent to which higher education institutions are
responding. And given the differential history and capacity of higher
education institutions, one may expect that not all institutions will respond in
the same way. Castells (2001) has argued that by their very nature, universities
are dynamic systems of contradictory functions – the generation and
transmission of ideology, the selection and formation of dominant elites,
training a skilled labour force, and the production and application of
knowledge. He stresses that these core tasks of universities have different
emphases according to countries, historical periods and specific institutions,
but that they all take place simultaneously within the same structure. This
results in a complex and contradictory reality.
In 2003, in a context of strong contestation around the future shape of the
higher education sector proposed in ‘restructuring’ plans to merge
institutions to more effectively respond to the challenges of the Department
of Education’s National Plan on Higher Education (DoE 2001a), there were 35
institutions,
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21 universities and 14 technikons with widely divergent
histories, strengths and potentialities in South Africa. By 2005, the process of
restructuring will be formally complete, creating a new landscape of
universities, comprehensive universities (DoE 2004), and universities of
technologies out of the technikons (see CTP 2003), which will need to create
new balances of these ‘contradictory functions’. Higher education institutions
have been established in different historical periods for distinct purposes, and
this historical legacy continues to shape their response to the challenges of the
present. There are distinct variations between the regional economies of the
provinces in which higher education institutions are located, which
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contribute further contextual determinations. The result is a complexity of
different forms of partnership, shaped by competing old and new imperatives
within institutions with distinct emphases of their core roles, imposed by
policy demands that are themselves potentially contradictory.
The aim of this research study was thus to map the patterns and trends in
partnership activity between industry and higher education institutions
evident across the higher education landscape, as a first step in opening up
the field empirically and conceptually. We have a knowledge gap about
partnerships in South Africa, in the face of a general agreement that they are
a desirable social and economic ‘good’. The research reported in this book
explored the ways in which the vision of higher education’s role in the
knowledge economy promoted globally, and increasingly in South African
science and innovation policy, is mediated in higher education institutions in
practice, in all its complex, messy and difficult to quantify reality.
Qualitative descriptive data is necessary to illuminate the complex forms of
partnership that may develop in specific institutional contexts – or specific
knowledge fields. The empirical focus was limited to partnerships in three
high technology fields typically at the cutting edge of innovation and the
knowledge economy globally, and identified as priorities for development in
national foresight studies in South Africa – namely, biotechnology,
information and communication technology (ICT) and new materials
development.
A set of broad research questions guided the qualitative empirical ‘mapping
exercise’:
• What are the forms of knowledge partnerships in different kinds of
higher education institutional contexts in South Africa?
• What are the forms of knowledge partnerships in each of the three
knowledge fields – ICT, biotechnology and new materials development –
identified as priorities for a national system of innovation in South Africa?
• What are the institutional ‘levers’ that have facilitated or constrained the
development of these forms of partnerships in different institutions and
different knowledge fields?
The study thus has a specific focus and clear limits on the world of science and
technology research, which need to be born in mind throughout. It focuses
primarily on the knowledge generation and dissemination function, rather
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than on the other core missions articulated for higher education in South
Africa, teaching and community outreach. It focuses on higher education
partnerships with industry – and not on other forms of partnership, such as
those related primarily to teaching, particularly at undergraduate level, or
partnerships with the public sector or communities. It focuses on
partnerships in science and technology, and specifically the three fields at the
global cutting edge – and not on other fields, particularly in the humanities
and social sciences. It thus does not claim to present a map of the total
‘picture’ of higher education in relation to research and innovation. Further
empirical studies will be required to research whether the conceptual and
analytical frameworks developed in the study may be extended to community
partnerships for example, or to partnerships based in the humanities and
social sciences.
There is currently a lack of information on the nature and forms of partnerships,
with few institutions keeping a systematic database of information pertaining
to partnerships. This data problem is not specific to South Africa. Charles and
Conway (2001) report the difficulty of gathering data on higher education–
business interaction in the UK, given that data is not available on a centralised
basis in a higher education information system, and the time required to
compile such data. Hall, Link and Scott (2000) reported similar difficulties, in
the US context, of identifying appropriate databases to explore the types of
roles universities play in research partnerships, given the lack of systematic
data on universities as research partners at firm or project level.
It thus became necessary to design a methodology to map the forms of
industry partnership and the institutional practices that facilitated or
constrained them, across the South African higher education sector, a
description of which provides the focus of the following sections.
Designing a process to map partnerships across the sector
Defining partnership, collaboration and networks
At the most general level,‘partnership’ was defined very broadly to denote any
form of linkage or co-operative relationship of mutual benefit or mutual
interest between an academic/s, department/s or unit/s in higher education,
and industry. In contrast, ‘collaboration’ was defined specifically as a
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knowledge-based linkage in which all partners make an intellectual
contribution. The specific form of relationship of interest to this project is a
‘knowledge-intensive or innovation partnership’, defined as a mutually
beneficial relationship between an individual or multiple academics,
departments or units and industry, which involves collaboration in knowledge
generation, diffusion and/or application that will ultimately contribute to
innovation. The most common form of such collaboration is a ‘network’,
defined by Castells as a relationship which:
facilitates the acquisition of product design and production
technology, enables joint production and process development,
and permits generic scientific knowledge and research and
development to be shared. (1996: 191)
Here we refer to such collaboration between a number of industry
organisations and researchers from (several) higher education institutions.
Phrased in terms of these operational definitions, the objective of the study
was to map out the scale and location of all forms of partnerships, and then
to identify what forms of research partnerships, collaborations and networks
are emerging, where, how, and under what conditions across the South
African higher education system.
Identifying conceptual dimensions
Conceptual distinctions were required that would allow researchers to
identify partnerships, collaborations and networks in all their empirical
manifestations across the South African higher education sector. Bawa and
Mouton’s (2002) analysis of research capacity across the higher education
system noted the continuation of stark differentiation, with five historically
advantaged universities and six technikons continuing to dominate and
produce the bulk of accredited research in the higher education sector. Shifts
were noted in the form of an increase in research productivity in some
technikons, and in two historically black universities (the University of the
Western Cape and the University of Durban-Westville). One might reasonably
expect then, that high technology research activity would be concentrated in
historically advantaged institutions with strong research traditions, with
evidence of emergent trends in some institutions, evidence of aspirant trends
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in some institutions and perhaps little evidence of activity at all in some
institutions. The audit of THRIP and Innovation Fund beneficiaries revealed
that there are pockets of high technology activity occurring across the higher
education system, in complex combinations (HSRC 2003). This underscored
the significance of working qualitatively, and sensitively to institutional
differences, to identify distinct forms of partnership. It reinforced the
necessity of mapping out all forms of partnership in order to identify
emergent trends and triggers for innovative activity and higher education
responsiveness across the system.
A set of four critical dimensions was identified from the international
comparative literature and the emerging research on the South Africa context,
to distinguish forms of partnership and the institutional response that
shaped them (see Chapter Two for elaboration). The most critical
distinguishing characteristics of each dimension were identified. This set of
dimensions and characteristics underpinned the design of the interview
schedules and the process of data gathering, the analysis of data for each
institution, and the comparative synthesis in this report. The first three sets of
dimensions relate to the conditions that facilitate or constrain partnerships,
and to the institutional level; the fourth set of dimensions relates to the nature
of partnerships and to the research project level:
• Research culture and vision
• Research structures
• Research productivity
• Nature of linkages
• Initiation of linkage
• Conceptions of interrelationship
• Coverage and contribution
• Products and outcomes.
A full list of the dimensions, characteristics and features that were used in the
design of instruments is reproduced in Appendix One.
Operationalising the research questions
Given the relatively unexplored research terrain, the challenge was to identify
a means of obtaining reliable qualitative descriptions across the large and
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diverse sector. This was achieved by triangulating data gathered from a range of
empirical sources at different levels within institutions, using diverse methods:
• On the scale of researchers and partnerships in each of the three high-
end technology fields, within each institution, and across the higher
education sector;
• On the nature of partnerships evident within the institution, within each
of the three fields and within cutting edge projects, using the dimensions
identified;
• On the existence in institutional policy and practice of key policies,
structures and capacities that typically facilitate or constrain research
partnerships.
Data at each institution was gathered at three levels – the institutional level,
partnerships in general at faculty level, and cutting edge partnerships in
research centres or projects. The focus was on partnerships with industry in
the three high technology fields, but with strong ‘peripheral vision’ on the
general institutional partnerships context. This could take a variety of forms –
research in the technology field but not in partnership with industry,
partnerships with industry but in fields other than the three technology fields
of focus, and other forms of partnership, whether in the three fields or other
fields (for example, community, teaching). The research approach stressed a
concern to identify features that are strongly evident, emergent, not very
evident, or even not at all evident within a specific institution.
Research occurred in interconnected phases, beginning with the compilation
of institutional research profiles and ending with site visits to each higher
education institution to interview key research leaders.
Describing the institutional research context
Considerable energy was focused on attempting to provide a detailed
understanding of the research context in each institution, and of the specific
features that constrain or facilitate partnership activity in general, in relation
to industry, and in the three high technology fields of focus.
Martin (2000) argued that the management of university–industry relations is
widely identified as a critical factor in developing partnerships. The nature of
the research culture, research structures and research capacity and
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productivity at each institution was profiled in order to gain a sense of the
institutional context in which partnerships do or do not (or may or may not)
occur. In relation to research culture, the aim was to develop an
understanding of the way in which research is conceived of and prioritised in
the institution in general and in relation to partnerships with industry
specifically. A description of the internal and external interface structures
established by each institution to support research in general, and specifically,
external research partnerships (particularly with industry), was a second
focus. Lastly, an attempt was made to map the existing research capacity at
each institution, reflected in: current research expenditure; productivity in
terms of the standard measures of postgraduate enrolment, publication rates,
funding grants and researcher ratings; partnership activity in the form of
THRIP and Innovation Fund grants; and productivity in the three high
technology fields specifically.
The profiles were initially compiled in a desktop exercise, drawing on
institutional websites, annual reports and research reports as available, and on a
number of higher education research information databases obtained from the
Centre for Inter-Disciplinary Studies (CENIS) at the University of Stellenbosch,
the Department of Education (DoE), the South African Universities Vice
Chancellor’s Association (SAUVCA) and the Committee of Technikon
Principals (CTP). A team of Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
researchers used a template to interrogate the data and compile the profiles in a
comparable format (see Appendix Two). Draft profiles were sent to the Dean or
Director of Research at each institution, to afford them an opportunity to verify,
elaborate or suggest modifications to the data and emerging interpretation. The
great majority of institutions collaborated on this task, and the profiles were
amended accordingly.
A key source for understanding the institutional research context was the
Director or Dean of Research and, accordingly, interviews were conducted
during site visits. The purpose was, firstly, to verify and elaborate the draft
institutional profile by gaining a sense of how the stated institutional research
policy is played out in practice, and how central research leaders perceive their
office’s contribution to facilitate or constrain research partnerships. Secondly,
an attempt was made to gain a sense of the conceptions of partnership evident
in the approach of a key research leader in the institution. Similarly, interviews
were conducted with the Deans of key faculties
2
that housed academics
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working in the three high technology fields. Among the multiple purposes of
these interviews (elaborated in the following section), was an attempt to gain
a sense of the ways in which Deans, as key academic research leaders at faculty
level, are facilitating or constraining partnerships.
Understanding partnerships in the institution in general
and in the three fields
An attempt was made to develop a theoretical population of researchers
currently active in the three high technology fields at each higher education
institution in order to provide a baseline against which to assess the scale of
partnership activity. The central approach was to compile a theoretical sample
of researchers in the three fields in higher education institutions, drawing on
three publicly available databases:
• SAKnowledgebase (housed at CENIS), a bibliographic database of authors
published in accredited journals, was consulted on the assumption that it
would provide a theoretical population of active researchers publishing
in their field. A database was drawn of single authors in each high
technology field for the period 1997–2001. A limitation on this database
was that the institutional location was not available for all authors.
• The THRIP and Innovation Fund databases (HSRC 2003), covering the
period 2000 and 2001 for THRIP and from 1997–2001 for the
Innovation Fund, were consulted, on the assumption that they would
provide a theoretical population of researchers actively researching in
partnership with industry at each institution.
• The National Research Foundation (NRF) register of grants for 2000
and 2001 was consulted, on the assumption that it would provide a
theoretical population of active researchers seeking funding for projects
in the three fields.
The subsets mined from each of the three databases were triangulated into an
Excel database to provide the theoretical population of researchers currently
active in the three fields in each higher education institution. A complex
process of institutional verification of the dataset was undertaken. Faculty
Deans were key informants in relation to understanding the scale and form of
partnerships in general and in the relevant field, on the assumption that they
would have an overview of research practices in their field. Interviews were
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conducted, firstly to obtain assistance in the process of verification of the
database during site visits. Secondly, there was an attempt to access the
conceptions of partnership evident in the approach of key faculty-level
research leadership, and thirdly, to gain an overview of the nature of the
partnerships in the relevant high technology field, within the faculty.
Understanding cutting edge research partnerships in the three fields
Having begun with a broad operational definition of partnerships as any form
of linkage and attempting to map the scale of activity at the institutional level,
the focus shifted from the institutional to the level of specific research projects
operating in partnership with industry, to gain an understanding of the
different forms of partnership that operate in practice. Clearly, it was not
feasible to obtain data on all partnerships in the three fields in all institutions.
The design decision was to focus on those partnerships defined by the
institution as cutting edge partnerships. At each institution, approximately
three research project leaders in each technology field were selected on the
basis of their leadership of an apparently innovative cutting edge research
partnership – in the context of that institution. Selection of projects varied
slightly across institutional sites. In some cases, an initial set of projects was
identified from the institutional profile, or from the database. In other cases,
the institution selected its ‘showcase’ projects, through the office of the
Research Dean. In most cases there was room for selecting projects while on
site, on the basis of the interviews with faculty Deans or other researchers.
Interviews were conducted with research project leaders to establish the key
characteristics of partnerships, to lay a basis for identifying the forms of
partnership operating in the specific institution, in each of the three fields,
drawing particularly on the categories identified as critical to Dimension
Four, the nature of the linkage (see Appendix One). A key objective was to
identify whether new forms of innovation research partnerships and networks
are emerging, where, how and why.
Three qualitative data sources
This process gave rise to three distinct data sources for analysis, on which the
research reported in this book draws. Each researcher visited a higher
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education institution armed with a draft institutional profile and an
unverified database. It was part of their task to return a verified and amended
profile, and verified data for central processing. In addition, each researcher
compiled a ‘partnerships’ report, structured according to a template, to allow
for comparability. The first section described partnership in the institution,
exploring factors facilitating or constraining partnership, dominant and
competing conceptions of partnership, and descriptive indicators of the scale
of partnership. The second section described the nature of partnership with
industry in each of the three fields, with a specific focus on the nature of
partnerships identified as innovative. It will be evident that a great deal of this
data is self-reported, whether by institutions or individual managers and
academics. The fact that the analysis is constructed in large part from the
perceptions and values of key informants, and the institutional descriptions
researchers have obtained, must be borne in mind by the reader. Nevertheless,
there is sufficient confidence in the volume, depth and variety of the data
sources triangulated to support the veracity of the kind of mapping exercise
undertaken here.
Analysing partnerships in the South African higher
education institutional landscape
Defining analytical categories
Given their distinct historical missions, there was a strikingly apparent
difference in the scale of research activity in the three high technology fields
at universities and technikons, which suggested that analysis of universities
and technikons should be separate. Technikons were formally created in 1979
to prepare skilled, high-level occupationally oriented graduates to meet the
needs of commerce and industry, focusing on applied engineering, biological,
chemical and physical sciences, commerce, humanities and arts. The Van Wyk
De Vries Commission of 1973 relegated technikons to teach applied technology
fields, and conduct no research, while universities were responsible for basic
science and research. This binary divide has shaped the trajectory of technikon
growth until the present. Creamer (2000: 28) has identified the key features
of the technikon sector that distinguish it from the university sector, in
particular its direct contribution to economic development and employment:
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• The co-operative nature of technikon curriculum development, involving
industry to enhance workplace relevance;
• The ‘co-operative education’ in-service training component of technikon
education and placement of students in internships;
• The less onerous admission criteria of the technikon system;
• The high employment rate of technikon graduates;
• The applied research focus of a problem-solving nature.
Technikons were only recently granted degree-granting status (under the
Technikon Act of 1993) and consequently initiated a stronger research focus
3
together with postgraduate programmes, with the focus on developing
research capacity and potential areas of research strength. A number of
technikons aspired to become a university of technology along the lines of
similar institutions internationally. The CTP (2003) lobbied strenuously for a
new institutional type focused on applied research, work-focused
teaching/training, entrepreneurial activities and community outreach,
including business, industry and community. The acceptance of such a
proposal in 2004 will shape these institutions in future, but it was not in effect
at the time of the empirical research. Hence, the report continues to use the
term ‘technikon’ throughout.
There was also evidence of a stark distinction between the strongest
universities and the rest of the higher education institutions. The ‘big five’
historically advantaged universities with strong research traditions do tend to
dominate research activity in the three high technology fields of focus.
Analysis of the detailed institutional data in Appendix Three reflects that these
five institutions represent 63 per cent of the university-based researchers in
ICT, 69 per cent in new materials development and 68 per cent in the field of
biotechnology. This resonates with Bawa and Mouton’s (2002: 319) finding
that these five institutions produce 60 per cent of the South African Post-
Secondary Education (SAPSE) research output at universities. If the levels of
research activity are higher, it would be reasonable to assume that the scale of
partnership with industry would also be higher at these institutions. Analysis
of their activity could potentially provide an understanding of up to two-
thirds of research and partnership activity in the three fields of focus.
However, the concern was to conduct analysis that would open up
interpretation of partnerships with industry in high technology fields, and to
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