What Do We Need to Collaborate? Transfer in Universities for
Cross-organizational Collaboration
Claudia Doering
, Finn Reiche
and Holger Timinger
Institute for Data and Process Science of University of Applied Sciences Landshut, Germany
Keywords: Transfer, Collaboration, University, Process, Reference Model, Process Library, Knowledge Sharing,
University Collaboration, Platform.
Abstract: In addition to education and research, the Third Mission is one of the pillars of today's universities. The third
mission includes lifelong learning, transfer, and community engagement. It comes with new tasks and
activities for dedicated resources. To fulfil these tasks, many universities are looking for cross-organizational
cooperation. However, there is no standardized framework for such cooperation. In this paper, such a
framework for support processes is presented. It aims to provide a standardized approach to building cross-
organizational collaboration to accomplish the tasks associated with the third mission. The framework is
derived by applying the Design Science research approach. An initial evaluation is carried out by expert
reports. The framework has the potential to facilitate the establishment of new collaborations and structure
their joint activities.
The original public mission of universities comprises
research and teaching. Nowadays, however, the
activities of universities go well beyond this. The
sharing of knowledge and technology from university
and industry and society is encouraged by policy
makers throughout national governements and
regional authorities. These activities often go in line
with the so-called “Third Mission” of universities,
which incorporates the concept of a profound sharing
of research finding in form of knowledge and/or
technology from the universities to industry and
society (Rubens et al., 2017). Part of this mission are
life-long learning offers, knowledge transfer and
support for start-ups performed by universities today
(Pinheiro et al.. 2015). Multiple concepts try to
descibe these acitivities, but there is still no common
understanding of it as these acitivities are largely tied
to individual commitment or are anchored at an
institute level (Henke et al., 2016). However, the
tasks associated with the third mission bring along
many challenges to universities, both small and large.
Alongside with a scepticism towards an academic
commercialization, there is often only limited support
and resources for transfer projects especially in
smaller universities (Rubens et al., 2017). Therefore,
the sharing of knowledge, the formation of
university-platforms and the creation of university
alliances is gaining increasingly importance. Within
a university alliance or a shared platform, best
practices, processes and knowledge can be shared
across all universities, which are member of this
alliance. For this reason, university alliances,
networks and platforms are gaining increasingly
importance as they offer, especially for smaller
universities an increased visibility, more resources,
cost savings through synergy effects and a common
apparence (Doering and Seel, 2019).
To simplify this process, a shared platform for
third-mission support processes could be used, which
will be proposed within this paper. Business
processes in general can be grouped into core, support
and management processes, whereby support
processes were defined as instances of processes that
Doering, C., Reiche, F. and Timinger, H.
What Do We Need to Collaborate? Transfer in Universities for Cross-organizational Collaboration.
DOI: 10.5220/0011346600003280
In Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Smart Business Technologies (ICSBT 2022), pages 168-173
ISBN: 978-989-758-587-6; ISSN: 2184-772X
2022 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
Figure 1: Causal Relation of the Initiation of Third Mission (own repesentation according to (Foxon 1997)).
generated or delivered products to internal customers
of an organization” (Kock and McQueen, 1998)
(Hammer and Champy, 2006). With regards to third
mission activities, support processes are for example
financial or judiciary processes within universtities.
Based on the previous considerations, the following
research questions arise:
RQ1: How can universities support their third
mission activities with only limited resources?
RQ2: How can support processes be displayed in a
structured manner?
In order to answer these research questions, this
paper first discusses the proposed research
methodology. Then a shared platform for third-
mission support processes is proposed, with pointing
out all relevant processes and finally, a conclusion
with an outlook on future work is outlined.
The importance of support processes in the
successful realization of third mission activities can
be seen in the analysis by F
, who developed a
causal model to describe the relationship from an idea
for a transfer project to the real execution of such a
project (see Figure 1). At the moment when
cooperation partners gather together for a third
mission activity (e.g. a transfer project), they first rely
on managerial support from e.g. the university or
faculty lead and only when everything is already
reconciled, the support structures of the university
need to be in place and provide their support. As this
is quite late in the whole initiation process many
things can deviate from the anticipated outcome.
Even if it is just that the support structures are not
capale to handle the third mission acitivity capacity-
wise, this can result in a failed project. Therefore, the
sharing of support structures and processes between
multiple universities and the implementation of a
structured process framework can support third
mission activities of universities immensly.
High quality research findings are assured by a
profound and established research methodology,
which was applied in this paper (see Figure 2). The
design science research approach by H
et. al
suggests distinct guidelines for the determination and
evaluation of research (Hevner, 2007). As this
research aims to provide a process model for third
mission activities, specific methodologies for
information systems (IS) research were applied.
Therefore, the literature search and analysis was
conducted according to the principles of
and O
Step 1: Planning of the literature search,
definition of the search area and
conceptualizing of the search
Step 2: Identification of data bases and search
string. Scopus, ScienceDirect and IEEE Xplore
were the three main sources for bibliometric
data. In order to determine all relevant search
results, no restriction to a time frame or
publication type was applied. To identify
relevant publications in these databases a
search string was developed with the standard
phrases “transfer process” and “third mission”
and the extension phrases “university”,
“support”, “reference model” and
Figure 2: Design Science Research Methodology according
to H
et. al (Hevner, 2007).
What Do We Need to Collaborate? Transfer in Universities for Cross-organizational Collaboration
Step 3: Application of selection criteria. The
following inclusion and exclusion criteria were
applied to narrow down the search results:
removal of duplicates, publications in English,
citation of the publications one time or equal to
one and a mission focus on the university
Step 4: Selection of literature according to first
title, then abstract and then full-text scan. First
irrelevant publications were removed based on
their title and their abstract, which left 11
publications for a full text reading.
The framework for support processes for third
mission activities of universities was created
according to the guidelines of H
EVNER et. al (Hevner,
2007). The design science research approach
comprises the areas knowledge base, environment
and build phase along with the rigor, design and
relevance cycles. All these aim to design and build
artifacts, which can be models, methods or constructs.
Within the scope of this research, the process
framework serves as artifact of the design science
research methodology, which was created in the
design cycle. The scientific discourse on the topic of
third mission support processes was analysed based
on the literature search (knowledge base and rigour
cycle). Expert interviews on third mission processes
in universities derived the requirements and support
processes from the environment in the relevance
cycle. All participants were employees in universities
with direct relation to third mission activities.
Platforms are often used in business to achieve
uniformity and drive standardization (Gawer and
Cusumano, 2014). G
AWER points out that the term
has been used since the 16th century and has always
described something that serves as a foundation
(Gawer, 2011; Harvard Business Review, 1992).
In business, they serve as a foundation and set new
standards. thus, the largest companies rely on
platforms because they offer the best cost-benefit
relationship (Appold and Kasarda, 2011; Cusumano,
2010; Gawer, 2011). But platforms are not only used
in business, they are also used by Higher Education
Institutions. For example, universities use platform
models heavily in e-learning as e-learning platforms,
but also in other areas (Piotrowski, 2010).
Increasingly, they are also using them in the area of
transfer, although so far, they have been rather rare in
comparison (Reiche, 2022).
Since universities are becoming increasingly
process-oriented and the use of process-based
software systems is also growing continuously, the
number of modelled business processes is increasing
at the same rate (Becker et al., 2012). In consideration
of the fact that some of the third mission processes in
a university alliance also take place across
universities, the use of a shared process framework
will be demonstrated in the following.
In consideration of the fact that universities
always have to carry out comparable processes in the
initiation and implementation of Third Mission
activities (e.g. the application for funding or the
preparation of a contract between project partners), it
makes sense to use a shared process framework.
These reusable process models, which represent
context-independent standard procedures are called
reference models (Schuette and Rotthowe, 1998). The
most important advantages of the usage of reference
models are time and cost savings and an improvement
of quality in the creation of such information models
(Thomas, 2006).
Reference models can meet the special
requirements of a university alliance and simplify
collaboration. These requirements include:
Processes must be modelled in a standardized
manner but allow for customization to
individual university circumstances.
It must be possible to search for processes,
process descriptions and process elements.
Processes and their descriptions must be kept
Processes must be visualized in a way that
users can understand.
Employees in the university collaboration
should have the opportunity to further develop
processes and exchange information with each
A shared process framework can not only simplify
the work in the administrations of the universities
participating in the university alliance, but also
promotes intra- and interorganizational cooperation
and knowledge transfer (Foxon, 1997). The ability to
extract knowledge about an organization's processes
from the collection of processes significantly
supports knowledge management.
The implementation of a common process
framework can also trigger a sustainable knowledge
transfer through the use and sharing of best practice
processes. But, the functions of a shared process
framework go even further and can not only enable a
ICSBT 2022 - 19th International Conference on Smart Business Technologies
Figure 3: Overview of Support Processes for Third Mission Activities (own representation).
profound knowledge management and transfer
between and within universities, it can also be used to
optimize business processes through sharing of best
practices beyond university borders (Doering and
Seel, 2020).
Process models which aim to manage knowledge can
be divided into to the group of descriptive or in the
group of prescriptive models (Sprague Jan., 1999).
Whereas descriptive models outline the
characteristics of knowledge management,
prescriptive models describe aspects and approaches
and thus the management of knowledge. The
proposed process framework aims to describe the
target state of knowledge sharing and transfer in
university collaborations in regard to support
processes, which characterizes it as a prescriptive
model. This process framework is an information
model, which represents an artifact of the Design
Science process. It is therefore a result of an in-depth
literature analysis and the European survey on third
mission processes. Within the framework, the
processes were grouped into these categories (see
Figure 3):
HR Processes
IT Processes
Methodological Processes
Finance Processes
Judiciary Processes
Within these categories, there are single processes,
which are modelled in detail in BPMN 2.0 (Business
Process Model and Notation) to show the control and
data flow. In Figure 3 an overview of all identified
support processes for third mission activities can be
seen. An example of such a process is illustrated in
Figure 3. As this is beyond the scope of this
publication, the process model just serves as an
example and shows a part of the process “Define IP
Strategy”. BPMN 2.0 as a modelling language was
chosen, as it is a standard in graphically describing
processes and it is also fairly understandable, even
without any process modelling background (Chinosi
and Trombetta, 2012). BPMN 2.0 therefore, fulfills
also the requirements set by the usage of a reference
model, as it offers a standardized way of process
modelling and allows for easy customization. As the
used symbols in BPMN 2.0 are also kept quite simple
(e.g. rhombus for gateways), the processes can be
What Do We Need to Collaborate? Transfer in Universities for Cross-organizational Collaboration
visualized in a way, that users can understand them
straightforward. Today, there are around 60
implementations of BPMN, according to the official
BPMN website (Object Management Group, 2022).
Consequently, the variety of tools from which
universities can choose is broad and a lot of tools are
also free to use (e.g. the Modeler by the company
The evaluation of the key findings of research is
one of the core activities of the Design Science
Research Methodology and aims to prove and justify
the created artifacts. An evaluation of the process
framework was conducted within universities, which
cooperate in a university collaboration in Germany.
As form of evaluation expert interviews were chosen.
All experts are employees in technology and
knowledge transfer offices, research funding
departments, finance and legal departments. They
were selected as a result of their possession of
privileged information and their responsibility in
third mission activities of their universities (Meuser
and Nagel, 2009).
The third mission promises new possibilities for
collaboration and transfer. It has the potential to
bridge the gap between academia, industry and
society. Education, research, lifelong learning,
transfer, and social commitment are integral parts of
today's universities.
This paper presented a framework that structures and
guides the establishment of cross-organizational
collaborations to accomplish the tasks of the third
mission. Such structures and guidance are of great
importance in facilitating the fulfilment of the third
mission. It helps to design suitable support processes
that form the basis for efficient and effective transfer
processes. The support processes are considered
important building blocks to ensure the long-term
success of the third mission.
The framework includes support processes for human
resource management, information technology,
finance, justice, and methods and processes.
The evaluation by means of expert interviews showed
that the framework is suitable for fulfilling its
In a further step, the proposed framework is to be
integrated into a higher-level reference model that
includes all transfer activities of the universities.
The transfer project "Transfer and Innovation East-
Bavaria" is funded by the "Innovative University of
Applied Sciences" East-Bavaria 2018 2022
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