Global innovation networks: The anatomy of change

The following is an excerpt from Going Global 2016: Volume 5.

A sustainable environment

Higher education and research are no longer privileged pursuits pursued by high priests in isolated ivory towers. That history and stereotype, itself only partly true, has given way to the increasing catalysis of change. The change is fuelled by rapid development and competition, and by a concert of factors and global dynamics affecting the international research universities that are the subject of this discussion.

The role of networks, formed by groups of universities in order to strengthen their capacity to compete, change, challenge and innovate, is to be experimental laboratories at the frontiers of change, where concepts and instruments may be developed, tested and assessed. If successful and viable, the proofs of concept may be adopted and implemented by their communities. In this paper, we take just three examples of international university networks, each different in scope, ambition and delivery. We ask how these networks adapt, evolve and introduce successful innovations to themselves but also serve as role models to their wider constituents and stakeholders.

In taking a look at the activities of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU – founded 1913), the International Association of Universities (IAU – founded 1950) and the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN – founded 2000), along with the catalytic role of the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE – founded 2008), we are not promoting these as ideal models. We are testing their performance as examples of a new global teamwork in higher education and research, itself changing rapidly under drivers and change agents that can both encourage and threaten the future. We arrive at a short list of selected factors and features that will be influential now, and as far into that unpredictable future as we can see.

View full chapter