Contribution of higher education institutions to social innovation: practices in two southern European universities
The interactions between the higher education sector and society and industry have been
attracting increased attention in terms of ways to develop social innovation solutions to societal
problems. Despite calls from politicians and the existence of some guidelines, we know little about
how higher education could incorporate social innovation activities into its structure and missions.
This study examines some practice experiences in two southern European public universities in
Portugal and Spain. We show that the third mission of universities, which includes social innovation,
is both linked to the ﬁrst two missions of teaching and research, depending on the university’s
historical and social context. The high dependence of higher education institutions on economic
returns increases the importance of political action to drive the development of social innovation
activities. This conditioning factor seems to be intrinsic to some of the barriers that have been
identiﬁed, such as lack of legitimization and recognition of social innovation practices at the formal
This research was funded in part by the National R&D Program of the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, grant number RTI2018-101722-B-I00 Spanish Universities Involvement in Social Innovation Activities (SUISIA). This work also received funding from the CIEd—Research Centre on Education, Institute of Education, University of Minho, project UIDB/01661/2020, through national FCT/MCTES-PT funds.
Ano de Publicação: 2021