Universities in Europe may provide a "solid research base" but they are failing to extend this to research applications and technology transfer, according to a study for the European Universities Association.
"Some adjustments are still needed to prepare graduates and to adapt their skills to the challenges of the current and expanding regional knowledge economy," says The Rise of Knowledge Regions , compiled by higher education consultant Sybille Reichert.
The report is based on studies of four European city-regions: Barcelona, Brno, Manchester and Øresund. It notes complaints by some regional authorities that entrepreneurial thinking and skills "are generally seen to be insufficiently developed, not only among students but also among researchers".
But the report acknowledges that a lot is changing in a remarkably short time.
It says: "An increasing number of professors are slowly becoming more open to, and interested in, innovation and co-operation with industry.
"With more and more positive examples of renowned basic researchers also being entrepreneurial, the attitudes of the profession's more conservative representatives begin to change."
Dr Reichert told The Times Higher : "Over the past decade a lot of regions have become very attentive, through policymaking and networking, to the support of knowledge production."
But, she said that while many universities recognised the potential of having good relations with the region, they "still have a long way to go to be able really to respond to these challenges".
Dr Reichert agreed this was due partly to underfunding, but said there had to be a change of outlook. Traditionally, knowledge was produced inside the university and sent out to the outside world.
"What we need in a new type of knowledge region is for the universities to engage much more in a dialogue where the problems of the outside world would be picked up as research," she said.
Not all universities were equipped to take their place in a knowledge region. In the four Dr Reichert surveyed the process was driven by a relatively few "visible, well-connected individuals".