Recent decades have seen growing expectations on post-secondary institutions to fulfill roles not only as educators and researchers, but also to contribute to their surrounding regional and national economic, social, and cultural environments. There is a broad range of models and concepts describing potential ways that post-secondary institutions can innovate in these areas.
For example, early studies considered post-secondary institutions as “knowledge factories” that can have local economic impacts through the spillover of scientific knowledge (e.g., new college graduates added to the local workforce). Another example is the “entrepreneurial model”, which claims that post-secondary institutions promote the development of their regions by engaging in patenting, licensing, and academic spin-off activities generated from subjects such as engineering, information technology, and biotechnology. Then there is the “regional innovation system (RIS) approach”, which is explicitly focused on how post-secondary institutions can contribute to regional economic development. Finally, models such as “mode 2” and the “engaged university” go beyond regional economic development and direct attention to social, cultural, and societal activities that post-secondary institutions can potentially engage in.