Fostering university-industry collaboration in Saudi Arabia through technology innovation centers.

Author:Khorsheed, Mohammad S.

Technology transfer from university to industry plays a vital role in most countries. Industrial companies need to be more innovative in their products and processes to be leaders in the market. Collaboration between university and industry is not only important to industrial companies but also to the country and its economic development and competitiveness (Brown & O'Brien, 1981). As a typical example, a university will provide ideas and knowledge to an industry, and then, the industry will utilize and transform these ideas and knowledge into practice (Prabhu, 1999). Large and Barclay (1992) have stressed the importance the transfer of public sector R&D and new product technologies to private sector manufacturers. They have identified the R&D director as a key influencer in the transfer decision.

Cooperative Research Centers (CRCs) and next-generation technology strategies have been shown to provide proper contexts and methodologies for coupling science with technology. Boardman and Gray (2010) and Boardman and Ponomariov (2009) discussed the motivation for and embodiment of CRCs as government policies, industry strategies, and organizations and thus addressed a number of unexplored aspects of CRCs that are important to decision-making for both policy makers and management.

Nevertheless, Bjerregaard (2010) and Bruneel, Pablo, and Salter (2010) studied the nature of obstacles to collaborations between universities and industry and the influence of different mechanisms on lowering barriers related to the orientation of universities and to the transactions involved in working with university partners. Ahrweiler, Pyka, and Gilbert (2011) have developed an agent-based SKIN model (Simulating Knowledge Dynamics in Innovation Networks) to university-industry links. Through an international case study, Abramo, D'Angelo, Costa, and Solazzi (2009) investigated public-private research collaborations between Italian universities and domestic industry. They showed that most collaborations occur in medicine and chemistry. Lan (2008) developed an emulational model of the triple helix of industry-university-research institutions using the methodology of systems dynamics. One of the factors that determine university-industry collaborations is geographical proximity (Petruzzelli, 2011) and (Vedovello, 1997). Laursen, Reichstein, and Salter (2008) investigated the determinants of university-industry interactions and studied whether the geographical distance between a firm and the universities within its local area will affect firm-university collaborative arrangements for innovation.

Below, we present different international case studies from the United States, Spain, Canada, China, and Japan. First, Feller, Ailes, and Roessner (2002) conducted surveys and interviews with firms participating in the NSF Engineering Research Centers (ERCs). Their findings indicated that firms participate primarily to gain access to upstream modes of knowledge rather than for specific products and processes. Secondly, Segarra-Blasco and Arauzo-Carod (2008) used a sample of innovative Spanish firms to identify the determinants of R&D cooperation agreements. Their results showed that a firms cooperation activities are closely linked to the characteristics of both the industry and the firm. Third, Hanel and St-Pierre (2006) analyzed the collaborations between manufacturing firms and universities in Canada. Their results suggested that: (1) collaboration with universities is frequent in knowledge-based industries; (2) research undertaken in partnerships complements, rather than replaces, R&D by collaborating firms; and (3) collaboration improves the performance of innovating firms.

Fourth, Eun, Lee, and Wu (2006) evaluated the evolution of the University-run Enterprises (UREs) in China by building a new theoretical framework on the university-industry relationship. They argued that because of the time of the market-oriented reforms, Chinese universities have had a strong propensity to pursue economic gains and strong internal (R&D and other) resources to launch start-ups and thus establish their own firms (i.e., UREs), given the low absorptive capacity of industrial firms and the underdeveloped intermediary institutions.

Fifth, Motohashi (2005) examined the role of new technology-based firms in university/ industry collaborative (UIC) activities in Japan. Motohashi found that these smaller firms achieve higher productivity through UIC activities compared to large firms and that UICs are gaining momentum and are likely to play a strong role in reducing the dependence of Japan's system of innovation on in-house R&D conducted within large corporations.

This paper presents a new program of university-affiliated research centers intended to promote collaborative projects with industry Consolidating the National Innovation System section shows the efforts taking place in Saudi Arabia to advance its position in science and technology Paving the Way for the TIC Program section and Recommendations for TIC & Program Features section pave the way for strong foundations to design a model for this program. Blueprint for the TIC Program & Center section presents the blueprint of the program, including the cost of the proposed model. Implementation of the Inaugural Round of the TIC program section reviews the implementation of the awarding process for Technology Innovation Centers (TIC) program, with an emphasis on the analysis of key activities. Finally, the Conclusions section presents concluding remarks.


In July 2002, the Council of Ministers in Saudi Arabia approved a national policy for science and technology 'The Comprehensive, Long-Term, National Science and Technology Policy, which was developed by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). The policy drew up the broad lines and future directions of science, technology and innovation (STT) in Saudi Arabia, considering the role of KACST and those of universities, government, industry and society at large.

This policy led to the National Science, Technology and Innovation Plan (NSTIP). A key element of the NSTIP is the establishment of programs to enhance the position of Saudi Arabia regarding the development of strategic technologies that are most important to the country. KACST is also responsible for building the infrastructure needed for supporting scientific research in Saudi Arabia, including the management of research grants, setup of communication networks and science and technology databases and the execution of applied research. The Technology Development Center (TDC) within KACST was established to strengthen and promote technology development and commercialization activities within Saudi Arabia (Khorsheed & Al-Fawzan, 2008). TDC is a key part of KACST's responsibilities, and it assigned NSTIP to promote the national scientific and technological base, thereby helping to realize the objectives of economic diversification, enhancement of growth, and promotion of human development. The TDC's charter and strategic objectives point to three priority program areas for the TDC to focus on: The BADIR Program for Technology Incubators (Khorsheed et ah, 2008), the Intellectual Property Management (IPM) program (Khorsheed et ah, 2009) and the TIC program. The primary role of the TDC varies across these program areas and over time in each area as well.

The BADIR program aims to encourage, facilitate and support the establishment and development of a sustainable technology incubator industry in Saudi Arabia. The IPM program aims to increase the number of KACST invention disclosures and patent applications.

The TIC program aims to create a series of university-based centers in carefully selected locations in Saudi Arabia. Collectively, these individual centers should:

* Promote university-industry research collaborations and technology transfer;

* Strengthen university research and engineering education;

* Address economic and social goals of Saudi Arabia; and

* Implement appropriate features of the structure, incentives, and requirements of successful programs in countries similar to Saudi Arabia.

Figure 1 shows a three-tiered concept of the process of technological innovation, with each tier placed along a simplified linear model. It is important to the TIC program to note that the actual processes of innovation are often not linear and can originate with ideas rather than research, can involve numerous feedback loops, and may consist of putting existing technologies together in new ways. Nonetheless, the figure does suggest that the TIC program performs a critical role by linking knowledge outputs generated by university-based research...

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