This paper explores research and innovation policies supporting university-industry collaborative programmes. It is argued in the paper that the policy rationale behind the recent emphasis on such programmes originates in, and is legitimised by, conceptual developments in the social sciences advocating a systems perspective. Influential concepts representing this system perspective are ‘mode 2’, triple helix and regional clusters. Though being seriously criticized by academics for its conceptual flaws and limited empirical validation, these concepts have rapidly been transferred into policy practice by many governments in the EU and OECD.
The purpose of the paper is to show and critically discuss how a systems perspective within national research and innovation policy is formulated, negotiated and, finally, implemented in a regional biotech commercialization project in Sweden, called Uppsala Bio-X. Three main questions are addressed in the paper. To what extent do research and innovation policies at national and regional levels reflect key features of recently developed system approaches in the social sciences? How have key actors influenced strategies for implementing Uppsala Bio-X? What effects, both quantifiable and non-quantifiable, can be traced?
It is concluded that (i) national and regional research and innovation policy display central elements of recent conceptual development in the social sciences; (ii) actors advocating industry involvement have gradually increased their influence; (iii) researchers participating in the project examined in the study appear to support a gradual change towards commercial ends; (iv) beside usually expected effects (publications, patents, new jobs) of the project, the effects also include changed perception amongst the university researchers as well as (v) substantial unexpected side-effects that concern development of existing local biotech firms and the establishment of interdisciplinary research teams. As such, the paper contributes to the understanding both of impacts of policy programmes as well as of institutional changes that redefine the boundaries between universities and firms.