“If you run after two hares, you will catch neither” – The Cooperation between Universities and Food Sector Companies in Aomori Prefecture and South Ostrobothnia Region

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Title: “If you run after two hares, you will catch neither” – The Cooperation between Universities and Food Sector Companies in Aomori Prefecture and South Ostrobothnia Region
Author: Jumppanen, Aapo; Koyata, Fumihiko; Suutari, Timo
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto Ruralia-instituutti
Date: 2018
Language: en
Belongs to series: Raportteja 184
ISBN: 978-951-51-3758-6
ISSN: 1796-0630
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/238892
Abstract: This report focuses on the changing role of the universities in regional context. The research subject is academic engagement between university actors and food sector companies in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan and in South Ostrobothnia, western Finland. The organizations under research are Hirosaki University from Aomori and Seinäjoki University Consortium and the University Association of South Ostrobothnia. The study is based on 10 interviews of university professors, senior researchers and research administration managers. Interviews were made between 2015–2017. The food industries of Aomori Prefecture and South Ostrobothnia are SME dominated, but a few big companies are the most important single actors in the regional economies. In both regions, company size affected the methods and likelihood of successful academic engagement. Big companies in both regions have good resources such as their own R&D staff, generous budgets and better understanding about the market situation and the limitations and possibilities of the academic research, compared with SMEs, whereas small companies are more agile and have more open disclosure policies. The nature of academy-industry cooperation is based on applied research projects that use the triple-helix and quadruple-helix models. In both regions, individual researchers collaborate with companies in such fields as product and service development and market research. In Hirosaki University, the academic engagement is also organized through more institutionalized forms of interaction, such as the regional Apple Committee that brings together companies, apple producers, regional and local officials and researchers to create new products and business opportunities within the apple cluster together. The Hirosaki University Institute for Food Sciences also has a donation laboratory, where the production of practice-oriented dissertations is possible. This type of strategically focused innovation community is missing in South Ostrobothnia, although there are project-based temporary organizations such as AB Seinäjoki to help the overall development of the agrobioeconomy sector of the region, including the food sector. The methods by which the regions started academic engagement with companies shared many similarities, but there were also notable differences. It seems that Hirosaki University has a more systematic approach supporting the starting of academic engagement, whereas the actors in South Ostrobothnia rely more on personal relations. A more institutionalized form fits the more numerous academic engagement needs of Aomori Prefecture whereas in South Ostrobothnia the demand for academic engagement is more limited and the scholars can rely more on personal relationships. In both regions, academic engagement projects as such have a limited role in gaining academic merit. Publishing in peer-reviewed journals is the most important indicator for advancing an academic career. Researchers also faced similar problems in conducting academic engagement projects: the lack of time and the different logics of business and academic research as typical challenges.

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