The Place of Academia in the Knowledge Triangle: How Students Recognize the Role of Scientists for Building an Innovation Ecosystem




Innovation Ecosystem, European Researchers Night, Knowledge triangle, Research career


Abstract: Universities traditionally play a central role in building a thriving knowledge and innovation ecosystem. However, in many Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, universities and research centres are hardly recognized by students as attractive places for career development or as partners for successful business endeavours. Many factors can explain why the public image of scientists in countries like Bulgaria is underestimated: from low investments and under-financed research to old research infrastructure, poor media coverage, low international mobility and lack of interest from local businesses. At the same time, new opportunities and investments remain hidden for students and young people who remain sceptical about pursuing a research career. Considering this, the paper aims to explore the main challenges for positioning Academia back in the centre of the innovation ecosystem. Starting with a short overview of the main pillars of the knowledge triangle, it further enlarges the analysis with the role of the new national institutions (such as Centre of Excellence and Centres of Competence) within the modern innovation ecosystem. Focusing on the researchers’ role, the paper summarizes how universities can further help to strengthen the knowledge sharing within the society. The paper is structured as follows. The literature review identifies the main components of the thriving innovation ecosystem, considering some of the pressing national and international challenges, recent technology opportunities and public expectations. Then, it presents the EU-level initiative – the European Researchers Night (ERN) role in boosting public awareness and interest in science. More specifically, it explores the K-TRIO project activities in Bulgaria from a knowledge-sharing perspective. In the next part it analyses the opinions of about 107 ICT students who took part during the last year in surveys and round tables dedicated to the role of researchers, research careers and research opportunities for building a sustainable innovation ecosystem. The outcomes of the surveys and round table discussions are presented along with the main conclusions and lessons learned, summarizing their perceptions, prejudices and recommendations. The last part highlights how working with young people and attracting them to Academia can boost its importance for the innovation ecosystem.