Integrative university collaborations as an innovation strategy for catching-up countries : a case study of the MIT-Portugal Program
Author(s)Pfotenhauer, Sebastian M. (Sebastian Michael)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Technology and Policy Program.
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As the world turns increasingly towards knowledge economies, the integration of innovation, higher education (HE) and research policies continues to gain importance. In 2006, the Portuguese government and MIT launched the MIT-Portugal Program (MPP) as an integrative, university-centered innovation strategy that aims at reorienting Portuguese engineering education and research around the issues of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology management, serving as an incubator to establish missing links between universities and industry. The program was conceived as a targeted response to Portugal's specific innovation challenges. These challenges derive both from the country's specific socio-economic trajectory as well as general European reform pressure, and include for example the creation of strong graduate programs in engineering and science to address a critical lack in human resources, greater internationalization of Portuguese education and research, the achievement of critical research mass and international competitiveness in some designated key areas, and a greater involvement of external stakeholders and particularly industry in the universities. This thesis provides a real-time assessment of the MIT-Portugal Program one year prior to the completion of its current 5- year funding cycle. The thesis finds that MPP indeed represents an apposite, effective and comprehensive policy response to Portugal's imminent innovation challenges. The concerted combination of multiple policy tools has yielded important and visible successes, most notably in the creation of strong and international education programs, an unprecedented degree of networking and collaboration among Portuguese researchers and institutions, and the re-orientation of engineering education around innovation and industry needs. Secondly, the assessment has revealed significant opportunities for program improvement as well as some persistent barriers to implementation, in particular in the domains of industry linkages, program outreach and communication, and certain systemic and legal challenges that frame MPP's operation within the Portuguese system. Based on the thesis findings, thirdly, a continuation of the program beyond the current cycle is strongly recommended in order to extract the maximum benefit from the collaboration, to strengthen sustainable long-term bonds between the participating institutions, to include the lessons from the first period, and to ensure the retention and dissemination of the program achievements throughout the system. While such a renewal is highly uncertain due to the current economic constraints on Portugal and Europe as well as the substantial degree of politicization surrounding the Program, MPP should be viewed as a long-term strategic investment with great spillover potential into the Portuguese higher education and innovation system that is worth harnessing and expanding. Finally, the thesis argues that MPP does in fact provide a generalizable framework that could serve as a model strategy for other catching-up countries facing similar challenges.
Thesis (S.M. in Technology and Policy)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Engineering Systems Division, 2010.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (p. 197-205).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Engineering Systems Division.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Technology and Policy Program.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Engineering Systems Division
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Engineering Systems Division., Technology and Policy Program.