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Nicolai Hansen

DBA Graduate - 2014

Thesis title

Leveraging firm output from joint university-firm research collaborations


Christophe Haon
Klas Soderquist

Nicolai, born in 1957, finished his MSc in 1981 at The Aarhus Business School. Throughout his professional career, he has occupied managerial positions within various internationally oriented Danish food companies. Nicolai is currently employed as CEO of KMC, where he successfully works on implementing the findings of his research. He and KMC were awarded the Danish Agricultural Growth Prize in 2015, the Danish Food Innovator Prize in 2016, and a regional prize for entrepreneurship.

Though academic literature on university-industry collaboration has experienced a dramatic increase from the early '90s until today, there is still limited evidence about the dynamics of joint university-firm research collaboration influencing the outputs achieved by industry partners. The overall objective of this research has been to expand and generalize theory in the field of optimizing firm output in joint university-firm research collaborations. A two-stage qualitative research approach was chosen for the present study. Stage 1 represents a pre-investigation study aiming at seeking empirical evidence from key informants from firm, university, third party and public side to validate the conceptual framework and identifying candidate cases. Stage 2 is designed as a multiple case study investigating eight carefully defined and selected collaboration cases. The research presents a conceptual framework identifying the roles and contribution of three important players in the National Innovation System – the firm, the university, and the third party facilitator. The conceptual framework presents a holistic approach to understanding the mechanisms and drivers of successful university-firm research collaboration. The inclusion of a third party to facilitate the research collaboration between university and firm represents an important contribution to existing theory. As the study shows, the involvement of a third party can have an important impact on the firm outcome of joint university-firm collaboration projects. II The enrichment of the University Disseminative Capacity concept in a university-firm collaboration setting represents another significant contribution. The existing theory neither operationalizes disseminative capacity nor shows empirically the importance hereof in knowledge transfer processes. This research does both. Finally the study introduces four different categories of firms: Dominance-driven, Value-driven, Volume-driven and Scarcity-driven firms. As each firm category has different prerequisites for engaging in joint research collaboration, strategies and implications for optimizing firm output for each firm category are being proposed.