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R&D Characteristics and Organizational Structure: Case Studies of University-Industry Research Centers Open Access

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Within the past few decades, university-industry research centers have been developed in large numbers and emphasized as a valuable policy tool for innovation. Yet little is known about the heterogeneity of organizational structure within these centers, which has implications regarding policy for and management of these centers. This dissertation focuses on organizational structure heterogeneity and how it varies with characteristics of the research and development (R&D;) performed in university-industry research centers using a framework based on prior research in organization theory, economics of innovation studies, and strategic and knowledge management. This is addressed through 10 case studies of National Science Foundation (NSF) university-industry research centers in two research fields which are expected to vary along the examined characteristics of the research - seven centers in nanotechnology and three centers in information, communications, and computing (ICC). Prior research has demonstrated that radical R&D; - that is R&D; that is divergent from existing practice - requires organizational forms with greater hierarchy and with more codified rules and procedures (e.g., for data use, knowledge dissemination) to ensure coordination and control among diverse actors (e.g., scientists and engineers with different backgrounds and training) when compared to incremental R&D;, or R&D; that is reliant on existing practice. The predominance of cooperative research centers engage in R&D; aimed at radical scientific and technical innovation and bring together diverse actors from industry, academia, and government labs for coordinated problem solving. However, there is still much to learn about organizational heterogeneity in organizations engaged in radical R&D.; Therefore the purposive sample of university-industry research centers addressed in this dissertation help to further theoretical understanding of organizational diversity across R&D; organizations. For R&D; management practice and policy, the dissertation findings support that university-industry research centers can or should use differing organizational structures depending on the characteristics of the R&D; conducted by the center.Specifically, the findings of this dissertation arrive at four organizational structure approaches for R&D; managers working in university-industry cooperative research centers. 1. Centers are more likely to be organized with an increased number of hierarchical levels, or increased vertical differentiation, and increased codification of rules and procedures, or increased formalization, when conducting research that cannot be readily replicated without prior hands-on experience, or R&D; characterized as having high tacitness, and when conducting research that does not draw on a commonly agreed core of knowledge and prior research, or R&D; characterized as having low cumulativeness.2. Centers are more likely to be organized with increased vertical differentiation, increased formalization, and increased concentration of decision-making, i.e., centralization, when engaging in R&D; projects that are planned to be dependent on the inputs or outputs of other R&D; projects conducted simultaneously, or R&D; characterized as having high interdependence.3. Centers are more likely to be organized with increased structural complexity - i.e., a combination of increased number of hierarchical levels, increased role specialization of center participants, or increased number and/or distance of separate locations - when conducting R&D; designed to involve researchers from a number of different research fields, or R&D; characterized as having high R&D; complexity.4. Centers are more likely to be organized with increased vertical differentiation and increased centralization when conducting research that is intended to be restricted from unauthorized use, or R&D; characterized as having high appropriability. With high appropriability, centers are also more likely to experience goal conflicts among the center actors (e.g., industry and faculty researchers).Because in management science, practice and theory are closely linked, some of these recommendations also suggest theoretical propositions to address in future research on cooperative research centers and comparable R&D; organizations.

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