An Examination of the Multi-campus University in the Context of the Peripheral Innovation System
: A Case of the University of Costa Rica

  • Sebastian Jose Rojas Calvo

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Universities play an important role in strengthening the innovation capabilities of the regions in which they are situated, through their ability to generate new knowledge and interact with regional actors to diffuse their knowledge. Studies have demonstrated the existence of gaps between central and peripheral regions related to the concentration of resources and institutional density, placing peripheral regions at a clear disadvantage due to their reduced ability to generate sufficient critical mass to sustain the dynamism and inertia necessary to innovate. Universities can play a key role in working with peripheral regions, particularly through their activities within the third mission, to reduce this gap and increase innovative capabilities. However, their ability to achieve this can be limited by a concentration in central regions.
    Multi-campus universities present one potential solution to this problem, where satellite campuses of a centrally located university are positioned in peripheral regions to undertake activities appropriate to that region's individual requirements, especially peripheral regions. However, the limited research examining multi-campus universities results in a lack of understanding of the activities performed by satellite campuses, collaboration within the multi- campus system, and the barriers and enablers to their third mission activities.
    This study investigates the multi-campus phenomenon to address the above gaps in the literature. The research consists of three main phases. First, a systematic literature review phase is undertaken to establish the roles belonging to the third mission from the perspective of regional innovation systems, along with the enablers and barriers that affect these roles. Second, an exploratory phase explores the interactions between senior and satellites, and between subsystems of generation and exploitation of knowledge, through the application of interviews with coordinators, and directors of different units. Finally, an in-depth review of completed projects between actors in the multi-campus system is undertaken to analyse how the roles of the third mission are delivered in peripheral regions.
    The study provides three contributions. The first contribution is the development of a framework of multi-campus universities within a regional innovation system that offers a new understanding of the interactions between knowledge generation subsystems and knowledge exploitation subsystems. This highlights how resources are generated in the central region and distributed for exploitation within peripheral nodes. The second contribution is the creation of a new classification of third mission roles, understanding these roles from a perspective of regional innovation systems and the labour of multi-campus universities in peripheral regions. Finally, this thesis contributes to understanding the third mission and how this is delivered within peripheral regions through a multi-campus system, showing the dynamic execution of the roles of the third mission of the university and the importance of the combination of human and non-human resources to execute those roles.
    The analysis leads to the generation of a framework that captures the interactions, the mobilization of human and non-human resources utilized within the multi-campus system, the roles of the third mission, and the enablers and barriers that affect the multi-campus dynamic. In doing so, the importance of the physical proximity of the satellites in the development of their respective regional innovation systems is emphasized, and the need to maintain a balance with the concentration of critical mass in the senior.
    In conclusion, this research uncovers the strategic role of satellites as a regional actor that can provide access to the resources of a larger university system, consisting of different academic disciplines and resources, which enable it to solve the diverse needs of regional actors. Hence the study reveals how the multi-campus university system enables the university to contribute additional value through: i) being a provider of information to establish more precise and relevant regional public policies, ii) allowing access to unique resources that improve the efficiency and productivity of firms, iii) strengthening the culture of collaboration and entrepreneurship, defining the regional path, attracting investment, and retaining talent, iv) sharing knowledge, good practices, and successful projects that can be replicated in other regions v) becoming an orchestrator of actors within the regional innovation systems by being a capable proactive actor of redrawing regional orientations.
    Date of Award13 Oct 2023
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorChris Simms (Supervisor), Paul Trott (Supervisor) & Emre Cinar (Supervisor)

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