The Impact of Universities on Economic Development

  • Edward Crawley
  • John Hegarty
  • Kristina Edström
  • Juan Cristobal Garcia Sanchez


What is the impact of universities on sustainable economic development? How can it be improved?

University stakeholders understand the sizable contributions to societal and economic development made by universities, and they expect more.

Knowledge exchange with partners is the central feature of this expanded engagement. It takes place through the bi-directional movement of people, capabilities, and ideas across the porous boundary between partners and the university. The primary partners are industry, enterprise, and government organizations.

We propose a systematic approach to strengthen knowledge exchange. Our approach is pragmatic. It enlarges the role of the university’s core academic activities and their outcomes: education which prepares talented graduates; research which yields discoveries; and catalyzing innovation which produces creations.

To help a university implement this approach, we identify patterns of behavior we call practices. We describe eleven academic practices, each with a rationale and key actions.

Finally, we define a framework for an adaptable university, with supporting practices and a guide for change.

We acknowledge that here are many important contributions to society by participants at universities. Our focus is on the economic contribution by university programs in science, engineering, and entrepreneurship.


University Engine Driver Economic Societal Impact Sustainable Development Stakeholders Knowledge exchange Engagement People Capabilities Ideas Boundaries Industry Enterprise Government 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward Crawley
    • 1
  • John Hegarty
    • 2
  • Kristina Edström
    • 3
  • Juan Cristobal Garcia Sanchez
    • 1
  1. 1.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Trinity College DublinDublinIreland
  3. 3.KTH Royal Institute of TechnologyStockholmSweden

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