The Fountain of Knowledge: The Role of Universities in Economic Development

Today, universities around the world find themselves going beyond the traditional roles of research and teaching to drive the development of local economies through collaborations with industry. At a time when regions with universities are seeking best practices among their peers, Shiri M. Breznitz argues against the notion that one university’s successful technology transfer model can be easily transported to another. Rather, the impact that a university can have on its local economy must be understood in terms of its idiosyncratic internal mechanisms, as well as the state and regional markets within which it operates.

To illustrate her argument, Breznitz undertakes a comparative analysis of two universities, Yale and Cambridge, and the different outcomes of their attempts at technology commercialization in biotech. By contrasting these two universities—their unique policies, organizational structure, institutional culture, and location within distinct national polities—she makes a powerful case for the idea that technology transfer is dependent on highly variable historical and environmental factors. Breznitz highlights key features to weigh and engage in developing future university and economic development policies that are tailor-made for their contexts.

Book cover for the Fountain of Knowledge



Shiri M. Breznitz teaches for the Munk One and Master of Global Affairs programs as Assistant Professor. An economic geographer, she specializes in innovation, technology, and regional economic development.  Her research is at the critical intersection of theory and policy to fit the new realities of globalization. Professor Breznitz’s work has informed policymaking at the local, national, and international levels. She has advised on the role of universities in the larger story of innovation, on the economic impact of biotechnology, and on the role of clusters in driving innovation.Read more.