To address the complex theme of the role of universities in research in newly emerging areas of science and engineering, and in the development and commercialization of faculty research findings as a basis for industrial renewal and economic growth is a challenge. To be assigned to attempt this in a brief conference presentation, truly poses a challenge of daunting proportions.
This audience, I am certain, already appreciates that the relationship between fundamental advances in scientific understanding and technological innovation is complicated and multivalent, and probabilistic; that it involves the incentives for discovery and invention, entrepreneurship and finance, the formation of managerial expertise and workforce skills, the diffusion of new processes and products, and a multiplicity of expectational effects and dynamic feedbacks that interconnect all of the foregoing processes. Were that not enough, the conference program organizers ask also that we explicitly consider the roles played by public institutions involved in training and research, particularly the universities; and that our understanding of the workings of the whole system be brought to bear upon a discussion of the goals and strategies for enhancing the European region’s international economic competitiveness — specifically those announced in 2000 at the Meeting of EU Council of Ministers in Lisbon, and subsequently elaborated at the Barcelona Meeting in 2002.
Consequently, this presentation will be found to have offered at best only a partial response to the challenge. I intend to limit my focus to the nexus of issues raised by the Commission of the European Communities’ Communication (of February 2003) on “the role of the universities in the Europe of knowledge.”