University-industry cooperation: a study of the UNISINOS - HT Micron project for developing absorptive capacity in the area of semiconductors

Abstract The ability of an organization to identify, assimilate and apply knowledge of the external environment is studied in the field of organizational theories under the theme of “absorptive capacity”. The mainstream literature has considered absorptive capacity as a path dependent on the organization’s trajectory, which hampers its development in a relatively short time. However, there are studies that show that depending on the kind of knowledge sought, absorptive capacity can be developed in a more specific way. Confronted with this problem, this paper investigates the development of the absorptive capacity of a Brazilian university, facing the challenge of working on a university-industry (U-I) project in the semiconductor industry. The empirical research used the case study as a methodological strategy, through in-depth interviews, taking the UNISINOS - HT Micron project as the unit of analysis. Evidence suggests that the absorptive capacity was enhanced through actions that influenced the initial knowledge base, the training of human resources, the development of the organizational structure, and the establishment of inter-organizational relationships. The results also show that the formation of absorptive capacity is not necessarily path dependent, and it can be developed, at least in part, in the context of a specific project.