The university's role in sustainable development: Activating entrepreneurial scholars as agents of change

I.A.M. Wakkee, P.C. van der Sijde, Christiaan Vaupell, K.J. Singh

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The role of (entrepreneurial) universities as change agents in regional economic development has been highlighted previously, but how they can drive regional sustainable development in developing countries has been largely neglected to date. Using qualitative methods and building upon institutional perspectives of sustainable change, we show how being confronted with adverse poverty and pollution in local contexts can drive an entrepreneurial university to develop a sustainability vision that accordingly becomes the driver of institutional
change. We demonstrate how local campus leadership, a holistic teaching and research programme, and student involvement can have significant local effects over the short term. However, we also show how liabilities of smallness hinder the creation of significant sustainable local impact. Instead, the campus becomes an incubation space for novel institutional practices for regional development. Indeed, the most promising initiatives return to the original campus for scaling up. This study helps to characterize the entrepreneurial university by first presenting universities as drivers for sustainable change through education and outreach, rather than via traditional commercialization activities and notably in developing countries. Second, the study illustrates the risks and value of creating a separate space for novel concepts for sustainable development to be tested prior to returning these concepts to the principal location.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-205
Number of pages11
JournalTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
Early online date4 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • Entrepreneurial University
  • Regional development
  • Sustainability


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