This study was carried out to find and explore current forms of international interactions in collaboration networks between the global information technology industry and engineering education. Forms of interactions between industry and higher education were first studied through a literature review of previous studies on country-specific interaction forms, because almost all published studies on interaction forms in collaboration between industry and higher education concerned country-specific forms of interactions. The findings of the studies were used as secondary data in this study for comparison. There were only few previous studies available on international interactions between industry and higher education and none of them examined different forms of interactions. Thus there was a clear gap in research which this study for its part aimed to fill.
Empirically the topic was examined as a case study where global IT companies with their global collaboration programs formed the cases. The primary data for the study was gathered from the documents of the collaboration programs of global IT companies operating in Finland. Also interview data was gathered as additional primary data. The respondents included both IT industry respondents and higher education respondents. The secondary and primary data were analyzed by thematic analysis. The findings of the primary data analyses indicated that the main forms of international interactions were knowledge transfer, human resources recruitment and funding acquisition. The results of the program data analysis were in line with the results of the interview data analysis. Furthermore, the results of the primary data analyses were compared with the results of the secondary data analysis. As a result, the international interaction forms found in this study seemed to support fairly well the found country-specific interaction forms. The main difference was that the different types of interaction forms on the international level, especially in knowledge transfer, were considerably fewer than on the country-specific level. The knowledge provided by this study concerning international forms of interactions could be used for development of collaboration between industry and higher education. Similarly the knowledge concerning country-specific forms of interactions summarized in this study could be used for development of collaboration on the country-specific level.
Furthermore, a theoretical description of bidirectional information flows in collaboration networks was proposed in this study. Understanding the function of a collaboration network requires understanding the ways information flows in such a network. The description was developed by applying the voltage and current laws from electronics engineering, using the circuit analysis method to model information flows. The description takes into account the heterogeneity of the collaborating parties in their knowledge of the collaboration fields and the formed information flows. The proposed theoretical description could be used for example as a tool in the development of collaboration between industry and higher education.