The effectiveness of societal interaction has become a key aspect in evaluating the success of higher education institutions (HEIs) in performing their duties. These factors have been built into institutional funding models, and the funding of research follows a similar approach. External stakeholders are now having to share in undertaking some of the functions that will define higher education institutions’ external activities, societal interaction and impact on society. The European Union’s smart specialisation strategy is such a factor. This initiative allows higher education institutions to implement policies by building regional clusters. The counterparts of higher education institutions in these clusters of smart specialisation are knowledge-intensive enterprises, high-tech service providers, educational institutions, the Arctic Smartness Specialisation Platform and other centers of expertise for smart specialisation. In this paper, we have analysed the role of higher education institutions as knowledge brokers in smart specialisation though a qualitative analysis of 20 interviews conducted during the implementation of the smart specialisation project. Our findings show that the knowledge broker role can be promoted from four perspectives: the social dimension of networks; decision-making and control; cluster building; and exchange elements. The clarification and legitimation of the role of higher education institutions as knowledge brokers in these areas would give smart specialisation more impetus to reach its goals.
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