The Role of the University as an Agent of Regional Economic Development

Sharmistha Bagchi-Sen, Helen Lawton Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Universities are commonly seen by policy makers as being key actors in the knowledge-based economy. In the United States, universities, but particularly research universities, have been the focus of many studies which have sought to document and explain the commercial impact of university-based research on regional economies. For example, studies have analyzed the extent and outcomes of academic entrepreneurship and of university-industry collaborations. The focus of this paper is to review this literature with a specific focus on contradictory and inconclusive results. Data for these studies are obtained from a number of sources such as self-administered surveys, patent office, the National Science Foundation and the Association of University Technology Managers. This paper reviews the literature and highlights the variety of conceptual frameworks, data, and methodology used. It has a specific focus on assessing impact over time as well the difficulty in generalizing the result obtained from one study to another context. In spite of these problems, the evidence from a broad range and increasing volume of literature on trends and characteristics of academic entrepreneurship and university-industry collaborations shows that universities indisputably play a major role in their regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-453
Number of pages15
JournalGeography Compass
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Atmospheric Science


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