University and Industry Collaboration in the Era of Smart Specialisation: Empirical Research on Sustainable Knowledge Transfer


  • Carla Mascarenhas Centre for Transdisciplinary Development Studies (CETRAD) and University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro (UTAD), Vila Real, Portugal
  • Anderson Galvão CETRAD and UTAD, Vila Real, Portugal; School of Technology and Management (ESTG), Polytechnic Institute of Porto (P. Porto), Porto, Portugal
  • Telma Mendes Centre for Research and Innovation in Business Sciences and Information Systems (CIICESI), ESTG, P. Porto, Porto, Portugal; University of Vigo, Vigo, Spain.
  • Carla Marques CETRAD and UTAD, Vila Real, Portugal
  • João Ferreira Research Centre for Business Science (NECE) and University of Beira Interior, Covilhã, Portugal



University-industry collaboration, knowledge transfer, smart specialisation strategy, motivation, U-I joint research


The coronavirus disease-19 pandemic has forced universities worldwide to develop stronger crisis responses in order to support the surrounding communities more effectively. These solutions are based on collaborations between higher education institutions and industries that facilitate knowledge co-creation. Historically, universities have been knowledge-intensive institutions capable of producing additional findings through research. Currently, these organisations’ most important contributions to national economies are related to universities’ development of fresh knowledge and technical expertise. In parallel, all industries’ business environments have become extremely dynamic, which requires companies to focus on new solutions, rapid development and cost efficiency. To cope with these pressures, industries have been forced to search for new partners, so university-industry collaboration (UIC) has become a key resource for managers seeking to promote innovation and technological development. This study explored the relationship between research and innovation based on smart specialisation strategies and UIC, including the roles of university-industry (U-I) joint research and academics’ motivations for interacting with industries. Based on data collected from 841 Portuguese and Spanish researchers, the results reveal that smart specialisation policies’ effects on UIC are driven by U-I joint research development and university faculty members’ motivations for co-operating with industry professionals. The findings indicate that U-I research activities and universities’ incentives to collaborate with industries fully convert smart specialisation strategies’ effects into higher levels of U-I knowledge transfer.