Universities and Cities – results and reflections Conference of the project “Scholars, Science, Universities and Networks as Factors Making Cities Attractive”

Participation of Academic Scientists in Technological Innovation Activities

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Participation of Academic Scientists in Technological Innovation Activities, where he brought up the change occurring inside the academic world. Besides the traditional activities of education and research, universities are now expected to be more active in solving problems with immediate societal importance and their work should benefit surrounding society more directly than before. One important part of this new societal service function is commercialisation of technology developed inside the universities.
Kaataja mentioned that technological innovation activities of academic scientists have a long history, which has not been studied much. In his paper Kaataja discussed universities in three cities – Helsinki, Stockholm and Boston: how scientists in these institutions have acted as developers of new technology during the 20th century? He showed how the contribution of these universities has had a positive effect on their regions also via technological innovation. Some of the impacts have been similar in all three cities for the most of the 20th century, but in addition to this some local features became evident.
In his comments professor Reijo Miettinen raised two points of special interest for Kaataja: Firstly, he encouraged Kaataja to get acquainted with Freeman and Perez’ theory of the long waves in technological change. Due to the period of time examined by Kaataja, the latest technological turn – the rise of information technology – is not discussed in his study. Secondly, Miettinen stressed the importance of considering results pointing to different direction in recent studies.

In the general discussion it was widely agreed that Kaataja´s research theme is rather topical. Today, an increasing amount of commercial activity is expected from the universities. In this context, Kaataja’s approach provides a historical perspective, which has rarely been touched upon earlier. Thus, it is to be expected that current research will contribute to contemporary debate on the role of universities in society. It was also mentioned that in order to finish his study successfully, it is worthwhile for Kaataja to combine the technological innovation activities of scientists with general economical developments both at the national and international level.


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