Public Research Organizations (PROs) are often engaged in collaborations with firms to carry out public-funded and capital-intensive research projects. At the moment, these collaborations are overlooked by the extant literature, which is mainly focused on a particular type of scientific actor, i.e. universities. However, PROs, and especially collaborations between PROs and companies, deserve a great attention. Indeed, research infrastructures generally require a huge amount of public money to be designed and in this time of reduction of government’s funds, PROs need to be legitimated by policy makers, citizens and society in general, by demonstrating the ability to generate socio-economic return for companies and society. Moreover, research projects, especially in the case of Big Sciences, typically require the development of cutting-edge technologies, usually realised in collaboration with companies, thus fostering the firms’ innovation processes and capabilities and favouring radical innovations. Hence, investigating the ability of PROs to actually create value for their partner companies and for the society is very important.
The companies perspective is very interesting, as they may capture several important benefits, from an economic, strategic and technological point of view. The researchers perspective is also relevant, as they may benefit from collaborations with firms, in terms of acquisition of useful knowledge for their future professional growth, for example in the field of manufacturing processes, project management and strategic decision making.
Despite these interesting perspectives of investigation, the extant literature misses to deeply analyse PROs and the innovation activities carried out jointly with firms, as well as the socio-economic value generated for society and citizens taxpayers. For instance, it is overlooked the peculiar nature of PROs, characterized by very specific types of goals, capabilities, competencies and cultural aspects. And, more important from a managerial point of view, it is neglected the fact that such peculiarities may generate obstacles during the collaborations with firms, thus preventing the effectiveness of the collaboration itself and the generation of value.
Lastly, the multi-dimensional nature of the value generated by PROs – industry collaborations needs a deeper understanding, when firms, individual researchers and society more in general are considered.