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Assessing University-Industry Research Attention in Latin America and the Caribbean

Assessing University-Industry Research Attention in Latin America and the Caribbean

May 15, 2024

Universities across the LAC region appear to be expanding their U-I collaboration into new fields. In “Industry-research fronts – Private sector collaboration with research institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Julián D. Cortés, principal professor at Universidad del Rosario (Colombia), investigated how U-I collaboration’s growth in the LAC region has changed. As an example, from 1996 to 2002, there appeared to be a concerted effort among both universities and industry to focus on the physical sciences. Researchers can apply Prof. Cortés approach such as this in two avenues: The first avenue is as a point-in-time snapshot. The second is as an indicator to see where there may be underexplored research opportunities.

Both universities and private industry face congruent sets of pressures that compel each other to collaborate. Universities need to find ways to innovate in preparing students to tackle "Jobs that do not yet exist, applying technologies that have not yet been invented, and solving problems that we are not yet aware of.” Resource pressures paired with an ever-broadening scope of fields have pressured universities to seek partnerships that enable their students to access knowledge from a variety of sources, including industry.

On the private-sector side, they have an interest in ensuring that graduates are ready to enter and contribute to the workforce. Short product life cycles and global competition mean that firms need to train, hire, and retain knowledge workers more effectively than their peers.


Prof. Cortés used Scopus, a bibliographic database, to find research papers and their references that had at least one author affiliated with a university located in the LAC region. He then identified papers with private sector involvement. After classifying that subset of papers, Prof. Cortés compared their bibliographies and applied a technique called bibliographic coupling and network analysis metrics to identify strategic research fields of joint research interest for U-I in LAC between from 1996 to 2021.

Figure 1: Two articles that would meet Prof. Cortés’ search criteria. (Han et al., 2016 & Modenesi et al., 2004)

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Figure 2: An example of Prof. Cortés’ methodology, “bibliographic coupling.” (Cortés-Sanchez, 2020)

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Cortés also coded other variables such as the annual growth rate of U-I collaboration, country of affiliated institutions, and the names of the journals research appeared in.

Results and Implications

This study’s insights showed that collaborations between industry and research institutions prioritized physical sciences as a joint interest field, with areas like computer science and engineering being particularly strategic. These areas may be niches that both universities and industries across the LAC region can continue to augment to boost their global competitiveness.

Although health sciences and life sciences are also significant contributors, social sciences and humanities are less involved. Interestingly, despite its small size, multidisciplinary research stands out for its central role in connecting various fields. This highlights the potential for new, unexplored areas of research, especially in health and social sciences, to become future hotspots for U-I joint exploration.

These findings suggest that alongside existing sources of strength, there are still many opportunities for industry and research institutions to explore together, which could lead to innovative breakthroughs.

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