Governments can play an important role in setting framework conditions for innovation. Investments in human capital, research and communication infrastructure are justified for their capacity to support innovation among firms and industries, the development of new industries, and the competitive advantage of regions and nations (Mansfield & Lee, 1996; Martin & Hardy, 1996; Powell, Koput, & Smith-Doerr, 1996). As such, universities are viewed as types of knowledge and technology infrastructure that form the foundation of an innovation system and central actors in Triple Helix framework (Autio, Hameri, & Vuola, 2004). One of the key areas that universities and governments work together to advance innovation is through research, science, and technology policy and the provision of science research infrastructure (Jacob & Hallonsten, 2012) yet the interplay between government policy and university strategy is complex and conflicted (Kuhlmann & Shapira, 2006) and the development of scientific knowledge bases poorly understood (Smith, 2000).
The concept of the organisational field (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983) from organisation and management theory offers an analytical framework to examine the collective action between governments and universities in setting framework conditions and knowledge base for innovation. Fields are broader than industry analysis (Anand & Jones, 2008) and through three conceptions of the organisational field- relational structures, shared meaning systems, and issue arenas- can be used to examine the nature of the interactions between institutions and organisations. A case study approach was selected to examine the establishment of the ‘Smart State Institutes’- a set of four bio-science research institutes at the University of Queensland between 1999 and 2006. These institutes are viewed as the bricks and mortar outcome of a new organisational field of science research infrastructure. The longitudinal view of this development is presented in this thesis to provide important insights into the sequence of events and the type of interactions to answer the research question ‘How do universities and governments act collectively to develop a new organisational field of science research infrastructure?’
The concept of institutional entrepreneurship was used to examine what organisational actors within universities and governments have done to progress a new organisational field of science research infrastructure. Institutional entrepreneurs are organised actors with sufficient resources who challenge existing meaning systems, try to steer the process by which these meanings are settled upon, and form new partnerships and coalitions as a means of advancing their interests (DiMaggio, 1988; Leca, Battilana, & Boxenbaum, 2006). This thesis offers theoretical insights into the dynamic institutional process involved in interactions and overcoming significant policy orthodoxies that can prevent action from taking place (Marsh & Edwards, 2009). Governments and universities play a pivotal role in Australia’s economic future (Ernst & Young, 2012) yet their capacity to work collectively together in context of an innovation and research system should not be assumed. This thesis contributes insights to help guide collective action and highlights the importance of aligning government policy and university strategy.