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The Regional Innovation System–University–Science Park nexus: University roles within an emerging peripheral region developing-economy innovation system. A study of the Chiang Mai University (CMU) Science Park in Northern Thailand

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Many previous studies have evaluated the roles of universities within Regional Innovation Systems (RIS). However, few studies have linked the literature on RIS and science parks, which has led to less emphasis being placed on the roles of the university within the RIS–university–science park nexus. In addition, these studies have tended to either have a peripheral region developed-economy or core region-developing economy focus, with a lack of studies on the peripheral region developing-economy context. The purpose of this thesis, therefore, is to investigate the roles of the university and its relationships within the RIS–university–science park nexus within the specific peripheral region developing-economy context of the RIS of Northern Thailand (NT-RIS). It also identifies the roles of the university in the actual innovation process – which is an additional gap in the existing literature – providing evidence of how universities and science parks contribute to the development of a peripheral region RIS in a developing-economy context.

This thesis contributes to knowledge in two main aspects. The first contribution is through developing a two-dimensional, nine cells, matrix from a systematic literature review, which can be applied to identify the roles of the university in RIS–university, RIS–university–science park and the university–science park interrelationships in developed, developing, core and peripheral economy contexts. By applying the matrix, the unique characteristics of the roles of the university in the peripheral region developing-economy context of the NT-RIS are identified, providing a contribution to knowledge in terms of the specific roles emphasised in this under-researched context and what is different about a university in a science park in a peripheral region compared to a core region. Specifically, in addition to identifying the relative weakness of many of the cells in comparison with the literature (which is based on mainly focused on developed and/or core economy contexts), the specific roles emphasised in this under-researched context are: (i) building regional networks, (ii) research collaboration, (iii) knowledge intermediaries, and (iv) promoting the commercialisation of research results. The results highlight that because the university is relatively new to the role of the entrepreneurial university, the NT-RIS is largely still nascent, and firms have capacity issues, the university is having to address simultaneously supporting innovating firms with capacity-building activities.

In also identifying the roles of the university in the actual innovation process, the research provides its second main contribution to knowledge, identifying in detail the specific innovation processes at work. The findings from the 12 cases uncovered that the university in the peripheral region developing-economy NT-RIS supports four specific processes. These four broad processes were identified by comparing the interactive innovation processes of each case study to reveal how Chiang Mai University (CMU) is playing roles to support firms, the characteristics of the four processes, as well as project outcomes. These processes were focused on the: (i) research relationship process (three cases), (ii) product development process (two cases), (iii) knowledge transfer process (five cases), and (iv) innovation impact process (two cases). As part of these findings, three specific university-provided innovation success-driving factors were identified which were particularly associated with more successful outcomes of the innovation process as perceived by the firms themselves – also helping to answer how the university contributes to on-park firms in the context of a peripheral developing economy. These three factors were related to pre-STeP programme training, CMU researchers acting as knowledge intermediaries in organising external experts to participate in research collaboration, leading to further sharing of knowledge and ideas, and the provision of intellectual property (IP) training to firms. These results also support the developmental state of the RIS. In using the research to identify the roles of the university in developing the RIS itself in this peripheral region developing-economy context, through the innovation process, this second contribution to knowledge is reinforced. The university is found to have a more developed input (than identified in previous literature) in terms of innovation activities through its relationship with the science park, including a greater and more direct role in product development, providing IP management and training to a greater extent than that emphasised in previous literature focused on the peripheral RIS of developed countries. Unsurprisingly, the interactions in the NT-RIS have evolved in a similar manner to the interactions in RIS in the core regions of other developing economies, the RIS in Northern Thailand focused on the ‘core area’ of the peripheral region (Chiang Mai), but on a clustered sector (agri-food), which is different from that of other studies. Additionally, because the RIS in Northern Thailand is in the developing phase, the interactions and coherence among actors overall have been more limited and developmental than in the contexts focused on in previous literature.

This thesis also contributes to practice. Specifically, the matrix can be applied to other regions, in developed, developing, core and peripheral economy settings, allowing them to compare their activities against the matrix in order to see what they may need to develop, as well as offering contributions to practice in the Thai-specific context. In addition, in terms of policy-related recommendations, because the findings demonstrate limitations in the current functioning of the Thai national innovation system and Northern Thailand RIS, it also highlights supportive policies that are still required.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Thesis sponsors
  • Royal Thai Government Scholarship
Award dateNov 2019

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