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Project and programme research centres: Lessons for scholarship, policy and practice


About the research

Across the world, there are multiple organisations carrying out project-related research in a variety of ways. However, there is no single source available that provides information on these global institutions. To make a start in this direction, this report collates a list of such organisations. The research is exploratory and also seeks to understand different institutional models that have been adopted globally to facilitate formal collaboration between universities, professional bodies, government and industry.

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Why is the research important?

Knowledge ecosystems generate many benefits for universities and affiliated organisations. Thus, the report looks to map the landscape of project-related ecosystems by identifying those institutions that triangulate policy, practice and scholarly outcomes. The report serves as a resource upon which those seeking to and carrying out project delivery research can draw on. More specifically, the report has three purposes:

  1. Identify independent, semi-permanent research institutions that have access to data on government projects and researches that data to come to useful conclusions.
  2. Conduct in-depth investigations of those institutions with equivalent and related profiles to establish if there is a model that Project X can use to advance the current ESRC funding base.
  3. Present key research areas that would benefit from increased collaboration between universities, professional bodies, government and industry.

Though the authors cannot claim to provide an exhaustive list of project and programme research institutes on a global axis, their aim with this study is to provide a starting point for the mapping-out of these global institutes. In doing so, the authors seek to raise awareness and promote a better understanding of these institutions to the project world.

Intended audience

The main audiences of the report are likely to be those involved in policy, Higher Education and professional associations. This report would also be of interest to Individuals and public and private sector organisations that have an interest in research collaborations, knowledge sharing and leadership and development.

What did we discover?

In addition to developing a non-exhaustive global list of Project and Programme Research (PPR) related organisations, this report presents a deep-dive into four illustrative examples of such organisations: The John Grill Institute of Project Leadership in Australia, Stanford Global Projects Center in the USA, Concept Programme in Norway, and The ESRC Complex Product Systems (CoPS) Innovation Centre, formerly in the UK. In doing so, we observe the commonalities and disparities between the strategic and structural developments, extant form and motivations from across the case studies. Based on an examination of these four cases, our key observations are as follows:

  • Collaboration – collaborative relationships established and maintained across the ‘golden triangle’ of business, government and academia, can be mutually beneficial through the co-creation of outputs that contribute to each party’s strategic objectives and reputational footprint.
  • Interdisciplinary work – working across intellectual boundaries can deepen and expand the potential for innovative knowledge exchange across fields, sectors and organisations.
  • Balancing long-term/short-term outputs – a fundamental tension exists between an institution’s long-term and short-term demands for output. There is no blueprint for managing this tension. Instead, it must be aligned and periodically managed against each organisation’s mission.
  • Mentorship and leadership – beyond building research capabilities, harnessing the capacity for a future generation of strategic decision-makers is crucial for the continuity of PPR organisations.
  • Entrepreneurial funding generation – funding provides security and the opportunity for long term planning and recruitment, both of which are crucial for research continuity and creating an impact in academia and practice.
  • Network Convening – Ultimately, PPR institutes convene networks across business, government and academia, which requires that the right people show up at the right time. This calls for exploring interesting and relevant problems which attract researchers and practitioners.  Professional associations have an important role to play in this regard.

Implications for practice

The findings in this report have practical implications for three types of actors - those attempting to develop project-related institutes, actors that are part of such institutes and those who seek to collaborate with them. For institute developers, the report highlights the various ways that an institute can be structured both strategically and structurally.

It also provides insight into potential collaborators doing complementary work.  For those who are part of such institutes, it provides a bird’s eye view of how one’s institute fits into the global landscape and compares with other institutes. 

Finally, for those from the private or public sector looking to collaborate with such institutes – the report outlines the range of benefits that such a collaboration can spur.


APM and the authors would like to acknowledge the support of colleagues within the Project X research initiative. They are also grateful for the important contributions of the participating organisations, individuals and access to data to enable this research to take place. For more information on Project X, please visit this website.