Universities are expected to contribute to regional development through the ‘third mission’ going beyond the traditional academic core functions. Hitherto, the literature has focused on a rather idealistic ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to university engagement, though in reality universities have different ways to carry out third stream activities. This has been partly explained by geographic factors. Therefore, this paper focuses on how a particular context can shape universities’ institutional responses towards the third mission. A single case study of University of Lincoln (UK) demonstrates that a rural context has impact on the way universities develop their Entrepreneurial Architectures. A contextual element, namely a rural region, was added to the Entrepreneurial Architecture framework, originally conceptualised by Vorley and Nelles (2009), to study how the rural context affects to the other dimensions of the EA framework. Tentative findings from the case study suggest that in rural regions universities face increased expectations to take leadership outside of academia in the lack of other local knowledge institutions. The engagement is largely based on personal linkages with external stakeholders instead of formal collaboration mechanism, while the structures and strategic choices are oriented towards serving the local job market and regional priority sectors. These results imply that a particular context shapes the university’s orientation and institutional responses to third stream activities, and thus further context-sensitive studies on universities’ EA would be beneficial for exploring how universities can efficiently contribute to regional development in different environments.
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