Universities and economic development in lagging regions: ‘triple helix’ policy in Wales. Regional Studies. This paper considers the applicability and relevance of triple helix-based policy and theory, in the weaker region context of Wales, where the success of such approaches has been questionable. It calls for a broader appreciation of the roles of universities in weaker regions beyond a narrow ‘third mission’ conceptualization, moving away from a normative application of the triple helix in contexts very different from those in which it was originated. Instead, it supports the broadening of the original theory beyond the three key actors of university, government and business, and an increasing focus on diverse regional settings and spaces.
Pugh R. (2017) Universities and economic development in lagging regions: ‘Triple helix’ policy in Wales. Regional studies, 51(7), 982-993.
Post Doctoral Researcher
Department of Social and Economic Geography
Uppsala University, Sweden
The interview transcript
Hi, welcome to coffee break with researchers!
Today, I’m having a coffee break with Rhiannon Pugh, she is a Post Doctoral Researcher at the Department of Social and Economic Geography at Uppsala University in Sweden.
Hello Rhiannon, thank you for accepting our invitation to a coffee break, how are you doing?
I’m fine, thank you.
Thank you for the invitation to this nice initiative.
Today, I’m having an Indonesian black coffee, which one are you having?
I’m having coffee with milk.
That’s great. I have recently read one of your papers, the one about the role of universities in the development of lagging regions, could you please tell me what the paper was about?
Yes, this paper is based on an analysis of a regional innovation policy over around 15 years in Wales, which is my home country, it was using a quite prominent theory in regional economic development, called the Triple Helix to try to study Weslch innovation policy.
I see that since the triple helix is such an important theory for regional development. Could you please provide me with a short summary of the theory.
Yes, put simply, the premise behind the triple helix theory is you can drive regional innovation and economic development by having three actors, university, industries and the government working together in this intertwined way, which is why the triple helix metaphor comes, it actually drives innovation and economic development.
Thank you for that, and which ones were your main findings in your paper?
The main findings of my paper were that when you take theory such as the triple helix, which has been primarily tested in well leading regions economically and technologically speaking, such as Silicon Valley, in the US or Cambridge in the UK being the classic examples in economic geography.
When you actually take theory out of this leading regions contexts and try to implement it in weaker economic regions with different characteristics, you might run into some difficulties because the regional context is different and the theory might not work in the same way, so in the case of the triple helix, my main finding was that this was not particularly successful approach in Wales to try to drive innovation primarily from the university sector.
That is very interesting indeed and I also want to know which was your personal driver in doing this paper.
So initially my motivation was quite practical one, I had funding for my PhD studies from NESTA ,which is the innovation agency in the UK and they specifically funded me to look at the innovation policies in Wales and also to look at the triple helix, universities, industry and government interactions, so the project was kind of oriented toward that, but as I got deeper in to the research I started to question the applicability of the triple helix model, and asked if this is actually the best approach for weaker regions such as Wales to pursue, or are there other theories or models that can be more appropriate, or perhaps we need to change our theories a little bit to fit the weaker region setting.
I can imagine this was very important to you, so based on these findings, which ones would you consider are the most important policy implications based on your research. In this paper, I tried to provide both theoretical and practical recommendations.
My recommendations were not that we should abandon the triple helix, or the university based approach to innovation all together, but maybe we need to take a slightly different approach in weaker regions, which is more network based, the role of universities are slightly more interactive, kind of more social-community way, so rather than universities developing technologies or knowledge that they patent and spin-out and sale to companies in a very linear mode of innovation, perhaps they can play a more important role having a softer network based, community building approach in a weaker region setting.
So, they might take an important role but it might be different to what we might see Stanford University, or Cambridge University behaving, which have a very high leading tech regions.
That was great, thank you very much for clarifying that, it was really nice to have you here in a coffee break and I wish you all the best to your future research and I hope to see you next time, good bye.
Thank you good bye, Thank you for watching, if you are interested in more details about this research, find here the link to the academic publication, see you next time bye bye.Tags: Innovation, policy, triple helix, weaker regions