Learning to build institutional capacity through knowledge-based partnerships between universities and industry: lessons for engineering ecosystems from computing in Kenya
Keywords:research capacity, institutional capacity, university–industry linkages, knowledge exchanges, Kenya, computing
Two of the main challenges facing engineering ecosystems in Africa are 1) enabling universities to produce more high-quality research, and 2) creating more linkages between universities and industry to ensure that research is used, and that highly skilled workers have appropriate knowledge and training. But how can we understand knowledge-focused linkages between universities and industry in relation to other capacities and capacity building efforts within engineering systems? What are the challenges and benefits of building these linkages, and what processes and practices lead to lasting partnerships? We address these questions for the case of computing and information technology in Kenya. Our analysis comes from a three-year project which created and evaluated industrial studentship and fellowship programmes that involved partnerships with companies. University–industry linkages can be understood as an aspect of institutional capacity: a concept that refers to a range of capabilities – important across engineering ecosystems, but especially for universities – that enables production of high-quality and locally relevant research and contributes to the professional development of graduates. Other interrelated aspects of institutional capacity include mechanisms to support acquisition of funding; norms of mentorship, peer support, and scholarly communication; and structures that enable researchers to balance research and teaching. Our data reveal that while some of these capabilities are weak or missing in the Kenyan computing ecosystem, intermediary organisations can act as knowledge brokers to build linkages and facilitate learning between universities and industry. However, these linkages must be built alongside other dimensions of institutional capacity, especially social components like mentorship and peer-to-peer learning.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Matthew Harsh
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