Successful university–industry collaborations require high levels of trust among participants, yet achieving this goal is complex. In this study, we provide a fine-grained qualitative analysis of thirty interviews from four collaborative, government-funded case studies over a 2-year period to analyze how trust can facilitate and/or impede project outcomes. We identified two levels of trust (individual and organizational), at multiple stages of the collaboration. Scientists’ reputation and shared values about information sharing helped build trust among individual scientists, while organizational-level trust centered on efficiency, including alignment with contract provisions and time commitment to the project. Our analysis shows that only one project had a positive outcome, demonstrating that the interaction of trust across levels and over time helps explain collaborative success or lack thereof. Such a holistic perspective can widen understanding of the outcomes of university–industry collaborative efforts.
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- Characteristic-based trust
- Individual and organizational level trust
- Process-based trust
- Shared knowledge
- University–Industry technology transfer