Apart from their traditional function, such as offering courses and undertaking basic research, universities, through economic and social paths, have been taking on other more visible functions, bringing them closer to society. This section focuses on the (real or potential) significance of public universities in these other areas. These areas or dimensions are, less studied by institutions on the whole. In particular, these “practical areas”, which are the main focus of the study, are related to certain dimensions of the Catalan economy, which need to be strengthened, either because they show strategic weaknesses, or because they are sources of strict potential in the global context.
In this part, the focus is put on five dimensions. The first is output from the labour market with regard to university studies. This focus is due to the high unemployment rate in the country compared to other European countries, and the corrective capacity of the public university system. Secondly, the situation and evolution of technology transfer and innovation practices in the Catalan public universities is analysed, given Catalonia’s global standing in terms of innovation, which is not especially relevant in the Europe- an context, as shown in data from the European Commission (Regional Innovation Scoreboard). Thirdly, public universities have a significant influence on internationalisation, which is a determining variable when it comes to both regional and individual economic competitiveness, and where PIMES are still in an unfavourable position. Fourthly, the role of entrepreneurship in universities is examined, especially in the technology field, as the rate of entrepreneurial activity in Catalonia is lower than in other countries based in innovation (GEM). Finally, the concept of social responsibility within universities is reviewed, taking into account the growing impact they are having on this area.