Universities are increasingly required to respond to society’s new and complex demands. In the contemporary knowledge-based economy, universities contribute to the ongoing re-training and qualification of human resources by tailoring their educational offers to the needs of a growing and increasingly varied set of students. Moreover, universities are expected to contribute to national economic growth and competitiveness by producing new knowledge through research and by transferring it to the economic system (via activities like patenting, consulting and spinoff creation). Governments consider universities to be part of their regional innovation system, and expect them to interact with local businesses and institutions.
Our research investigates the changing role and the features of universities from various perspectives. It analyses universities both as economic institutions and in terms of the processes of change that characterize individual institutions and higher education systems. It studies the characteristics, determinants and specificities of the processes of knowledge transfer from universities to firms and other economic agents, at national, regional, and local level. It also analyses the dynamics of scientific production,in different socioeconomic and institutional contexts. This line of research includes, among others, studies about: the effects on scientific productivity of phenomena such as academic patenting, institutional and cultural factors, and scientists’ mobility; the assessment of the social impact of research activities; the determinants of scientists’ careers and research choices.