Beyond the third mission: Exploring the emerging university function of co-creation for sustainability

Gregory Trencher, Masaru Yarime, Kes B. McCormick, Christopher N.H. Doll, Steven B. Kraines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

224 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores a global trend where universities are collaborating with government, industry and civil society to advance the sustainable transformation of a specific geographical area or societal sub-system. With empirical evidence, we argue that this function of 'co-creation for sustainability' could be interpreted as the seeds of an emerging, new mission for the university. We demonstrate that this still evolving mission differs significantly from the economic focus of the third mission and conventional technology transfer practices, which we argue, should be critically examined. After defining five channels through which a university can fulfil the emerging mission, we analyse two frontrunner 'transformative institutions' engaged in co-creating social, technical and environmental transformations in pursuit of materialising sustainable development in a specific city. This study seeks to add to the debate on the third mission and triple-helix partnerships. It does so by incorporating sustainable development and place-based co-creation with government, industry and civil society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-179
Number of pages29
JournalScience and Public Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Apr
Externally publishedYes


  • Co-creation
  • Collaboration
  • Mission
  • Sustainability
  • Transformation
  • University

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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