Current Projects

John is currently following a number of research interests that draw on knowledge, experience and perceptions from projects undertaken since the formation of Howard Partners. r

Revisiting the business of knowledge transfer: Progress in the Development of University-Business Interactions in Australia 2000


Over the 10 years since the publication of The Emerging Business of Knowledge Transfer (Howard Partners, 2005) for the former Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) there has been ongoing discussion and debate about ways to increase the level of interaction between research organisations and industry.


The project will update the analysis in the Knowledge Transfer Report based on experience and insights gained from research and consultancy assignments in the area, an appointment as a Pro Vice-Chancellor with responsibilities for innovation and industry relationships, and participation in three international conferences on university-business-government relations.


Questions and issues that will be addressed include:

• What has been going on in the last 10 years in the “business of knowledge transfer”?

• Will universities really be the drivers of industrial innovation in the 21st Century, and if so, how?

• Is there evidence of  a convergence of missions between universities, business and government as proposed by the international

  "Triple Helix" movement?

• Why do universities really want to make a big commitment to research?

• Should universities be ‘standing ready’ to meet the research requirements of business?

• What is the new ‘business model’ of a university in the 21st century?

• Have we developed a robust theory of knowledge transfer?

• What might such a theory look like?

• What are the implications for policy?


A progress paper was presented at Revisiting the Business of Knowledge Transfer: Progress in the adoption, application and use of knowledge generated in universities for industrial production. 6th ISPIM Innovation Symposium in Melbourne, December 2013. View Power Point presentation.


Institutions at The Interface: The Governance, Organisation and Management of University-Business Collaborations in Australia


Much has been written and said in policy contexts about the unrealised potential for knowledge transfer to lift innovation and productivity performance, and overcoming barriers to knowledge flows.  Barriers are seen in cultural, motivational, and behavioural attributes of researchers (e.g preference for publication in A* journals) and of businesses (lack of innovation commitment, low absorptive capacity, for example).  Solutions are put forward in terms of improved connections, or linkages, in the form of better information, communication, and discourse between the research and business communities.


Policy papers and reports are replete with diagrams that contain overlapping rectangles, circles and connecting lines that illustrate overlaps and interactions between universities, business and government. However, these three institutional forms have quite different missions, strategic orientations, and understandings of what constitutes success. The existence of a logical ‘connection’ or ‘overlay’ does not necessarily mean that information and knowledge flows, or flows easily, between institutions.


There can be no assumption of a systemic coherence or underlying interdependence between institutional categories. Having people in the same room, for example, does not mean that people communicate. Connections between institutions occur through a supporting framework of institutional arrangements that have distinct properties, characteristics and behaviours. These fall into three broad institutional forms:  networks, commercialisation, and organisations. There is a great deal of material on networks and commercialisation, but comparatively little on organisational arrangements.


The paper will discuss institutional forms and identify the contributions of institutional 'interface' organisations including technology transfer offices, research offices and designated research centres.


The Industrialisation of Higher Education: Knowledge Products and Knowledge Businesses in a Global Industry


In 2004, Australia was a relatively small player in the international education market compared with the US and Canada. Governments have sought to facilitate Australian entry through deregulation and support in obtaining market access. Several Australian universities have set up campuses in offshore locations and several have joined the international collaborative networks of overseas universities.  By 2014 Australian had become a major player in what is now a globally competitive higher education market.


This paper explores the institutional settings and policy changes that enabled the Australian higher educator sector to move from an education ‘sector’ to a major services industry and major exporter – Australia third largest after iron ore and coal. It will draw on an update the research undertaken for Dr John Howard’s PhD thesis, “Business, Higher Education and Innovation: Institutions for Engagement in a Mode 2 Society”. The University of Sydney, 2004. An extract from John's thesis can be viewed here.


Local government, higher education and the knowledge economy: higher education in local and regional development.

 Canberra. Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (In progress)


In the modern knowledge–intensive, service-based economy a high quality tertiary education system is not only important for students wanting to embark on a career or start a business; it is a source of national and regional competitive advantage. Industry and businesses are attracted to regions with a ‘talent pool’ of educated and skilled people. Specifically, tertiary education is now seen as a major driver of industry and regional economic development performance. By the same token, school leavers should not have to ‘leave town’ to receive a high quality education.


Local governments have seen improved access to university education in their areas as contributing to the achievement of a number of objectives:

• Giving school leavers an opportunity to participate in higher education without having to leave the area

• Attracting students to study in an area—to the point of creating a university city or town

• Attracting and retaining businesses that require a professionally educated and trained workforce

• Stimulating economic development through expenditures of staff, students, purchase of goods and services, and investment in new buildings and facilities.


This paper will provide a context and framework for Councils and Regional Organisations that are planning to develop and implement a tertiary education strategy.




During 2017 Howard Partners is celebrating 18 years as an independent public policy research, advisory, and management consulting firm.


Howard Partners Pty Ltd, in collaboration with Technopolis Group Limited, based in the UK, is currently providing  professional advice for the development of a long term strategic plan ‘to maximise Australia’s innovation potential, positioning Australia to seize the next wave of economic prosperity and ensuring Australia’s wellbeing and economic growth in the future’.


Howard Partners recently completed an assignment to assist the  Hunter RDA to develop a regional  'smart specialization strategy' -  an integrated, place based, and transformation policy framework that will provide a basis for regional development investment.


Dr John Howard

PO Box 4090, Manuka, ACT, 2603

PO Box 569. Double Bay, NSW, 1360


P +61 (0) 2 6273 5222 (Canberra)

   +61 (0) 2 9966 1222 (Sydney)

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