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The role and function of cooperative research centers in entrepreneurial universities: A micro level perspective

Brendan Dolan (Centre for Research in Medical Devices, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, UK)
James A. Cunningham (Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Matthias Menter (Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Jena, Germany)
Caroline McGregor (School of Political Science and Sociology, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, UK)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 31 May 2019

Issue publication date: 22 November 2019




The purpose of this paper is a micro-level examination of the role and function of cooperative research centers (CRCs) in entrepreneurial universities from a principal investigator (PI) perspective.


This study uses a qualitative research design and is based on 38 semi-structured interviews with PIs who are publicly funded at the Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CÚRAM) based in Ireland. CÚRAM has a multiple mission focus of supporting scientific excellence, industry engagement, educational and public engagement that supports the Irish medical device sector.


The findings reveal that CRCs’ role and function at the micro level constitute a necessary and functional organization architecture that supports PIs who are required to meet multiple scientific, commercialization, educational and public engagement objectives. Specifically, from the micro-level PI perspective, the role and function of CRCs focus on research quality enhancement, brokerage, networks and collaborations, addressing research impact and resource enhancement and appropriation.

Practical implications

This research emphasizes the importance and necessity for the creation of CRCs as part of the entrepreneurial architecture of entrepreneurial universities that provides the necessary appropriate local environmental conditions and enhanced supports to enable micro-level actors to fulfill multiple mission objectives with respect to research excellence, industry, educational and public engagement and impact.


This study contributes to the limited literature on new institutional configurations that support entrepreneurship and addresses recent calls for further research. In taking a micro-level focus, the authors identify the role and function of CRCs from a PI perspective in an entrepreneurial university setting.



This publication has emanated from research supported in part by a research grant from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and is co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund under Grant No. 13/RC/2073. The authors thank the 38 CÚRAM-based PIs that gave their time to participate in this study. The authors wish to acknowledge and thanks two anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback which has shaped this paper.


Dolan, B., Cunningham, J.A., Menter, M. and McGregor, C. (2019), "The role and function of cooperative research centers in entrepreneurial universities: A micro level perspective", Management Decision, Vol. 57 No. 12, pp. 3406-3425.



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