The Regional Role of the University: A Study of Knowledge Creation in the Agora between Agder University College and Regional Actors in Agder, Norway
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In the age of the “knowledge society” and “knowledge economy” the main institution for the development of knowledge, the university, is being challenged in the general discourse in society as well as in specific regions. This somewhat paradoxical situation is the background for my study of the regional role of university. My assumption is that in order for universities to meet this challenge, it is important that they develop their knowing how in cogenerative knowledge creation processes in the agora between university and regional actors, such as industry. By agora I mean the concrete knowledge creation processes between university and regional actors. However, there is little theoretical knowledge about the processes in the agora. The processes are like a black box in theories that discuss the regional role of university. Subsequently my main research question is: • How is knowledge created in the agora between a regional university and regional actors? In order to answer this question I present, first of all, a theoretical discussion of concepts such as knowledge, knowing how, the agora, the legitimacy of university, regional innovation systems, action research and the regional role of university. This discussion concludes with an analytical model and a typology for analysing knowledge creation processes. The model consists of the following elements: participants, planning and organization of the process, and cogeneration of knowledge. By analysing these organisational elements I will be able to say something about different types of structures of the knowledge creation process among the actors in the agora. The typology I have developed from these observations has the following four kinds of processes: Strategically organized processes, management organized processes, collectively research-organised processes and individually research-organized processes. As a way of illustrating and illuminating my research question I look into knowledge creation processes between Agder University College and regional actors in the Agder region in Norway. The processes I have studied are diverse. The agora consists of many different knowledge creation processes: some are small, some are big, some are ad hoc organized and some are regularly organized and last for a long time, some are reported in the media while others are not so easy to identify. The regional role of university has so far been interpreted through top-down initiatives, such as strategically organized initiatives and management organized initiatives. However, the top-down processes have only to a limited extent been connected to bottom-up processes that are organized by researchers in the university college. This connection is crucial if Agder University College is to interpret its regional role successfully.