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IAS Colloquia 4: Regions as reservoirs of innovation Regional Knowledge Transfer in Action: InfoLab21 – a Case Study Dr Sarah Robinson and Dr Nigel Lockett.

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Presentation on theme: "IAS Colloquia 4: Regions as reservoirs of innovation Regional Knowledge Transfer in Action: InfoLab21 – a Case Study Dr Sarah Robinson and Dr Nigel Lockett."— Presentation transcript:

1 IAS Colloquia 4: Regions as reservoirs of innovation Regional Knowledge Transfer in Action: InfoLab21 – a Case Study Dr Sarah Robinson and Dr Nigel Lockett Lancaster University

2 Why should universities engage with the (host) region? Moral imperative Development of knowledge economy Regional regeneration University regeneration – development of new research areas and teaching design Graduate retention and employability A number of recent Government reports: -DTIs Innovation Report (DTI 2003), -the Lambert Review (Lambert 2003) -Governments Science and Innovation Investment Framework (HM Treasury 2004):

3 Why should the region engage with the university? National/international links Social capital and social networks Knowledge and research Procurement of graduates Use of facilities Collaboration on innovation Inform teaching, training and development to suit regional needs Procurement of funding and support

4 How can such engagement be done? an economic imperative is to make sure that scientific knowledge is used by business to create wealth. That is why knowledge transfer – both the science base push and the business pull – is such an important element of Governments science and innovation strategy (HM Treasury 2004:69). Outreach activity Incubation/clusters Knowledge exchange/knowledge transfer activities Demand led, research driven activity Role of Regional development agencies (RDAs) Regional development funding (e.g. ERDF)

5 Knowledge Transfer … an essential element of innovation, which drives competitive advantage in increasingly knowledge driven economies …is about transferring good ideas, research results and skills between universities, other research organisations, business and the wider community to enable innovative new products and services to be developed. (DTI 2006) The key concepts of KT are: clustering, proximity, productivity, competition, innovation economy, knowledge hub. The key processes are: exchange, co-operation, engagement, partnership, social interaction (Lambert 2003). Business is however critical of what it perceives to be slow-moving, bureaucratic, risk averse university structures, although many universities are casting off their ivory tower image. (Lambert 2003).

6 A working definition Knowledge Transfer means the two-way transfer of ideas, research results, expertise or skills between one party and another that enables the creation of new knowledge and its use in: The development of innovative new products, processes and/or services The development and implementation of public policy Knowledge transfer will encourage the dissemination and assimilation of knowledge and stimulate engagement between wider society (including business, government and public) and the research community. (RCUK 2006b:35)

7 InfoLab21

8 What isInfoLab21? A well-equipped, high-tech environment shared by academic research staff, research students and businesses and has three main elements, namely: ICT Research: InfoLab21 houses over 250 staff working in information and communication technologies (ICT), focussing on networked and multimedia systems. Training and Development: ICT Focus and the academic departments offer an extensive range of education and training courses for ICT professionals ranging from industry standard vendor qualifications to part-time PhD programmes. Knowledge Transfer: InfoLab21 Knowledge Business Centre (KBC) puts emphasis on business and economic development and creating start-ups and spin-out companies emerging from the work of our students, research groups and industrial partners.

9 InfoLab21: A case study EPSRC case study: 33 interviews, takes three distinct perspectives on these KT activities, namely academics, non-academics and businesses. Longitudinal study of SME experiences, interviews All interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed The first stage of the analysis consisted of collective, rather than individual, analysis of the transcripts using Wmatrix (

10 Findings: Perception Barriers particularly by SMEs…they view universities as being full of long haired weirdos…who dont understand the real world and all of that and they dont actually appreciate that universities now have got business targets as well as academic targets. (G/N) I suppose some people in universities don't want to interact with companies at all. There is a need for bridging the gap between academia and industry and I think actually we have been making good progress on this. (G/N)

11 Findings: Academic Perspectives There is normally the university helping the companies but also the companies helping the university. (G/A) one of the aims of government when they are talking about science and innovation is to ensure that science that innovates doesnt get left in a lab and never comes to anything. (G/A) the cutting edge versus delivery of received wisdom thing is something that does concern us. Because we are a research-led university, when we are thinking about knowledge transfer we would like to think about transferring the things that we do in research terms that are new… (G/A)

12 Findings: The SME perspective There has been a lot of interaction and there has been a lot of very, very welcome support. There has been a lot of goodwill. A lot of yes assistance any time we ask or discuss anything there have been people always there for us to talk to. (G/B). knowing that there is that clear source of advice to local businesses that is available certainly helps if we have got anyone who we think might benefit from a relationship with the university. (G/B) Promoting this kind of contact is the situation where facilitators can play a key role in identifying mutual interests: knowledge transfer requires you to get people who want knowledge to know that they want it and to get in touch with the right people to provide it. (G/B) Certainly some of the opportunities wouldn't have happened and others would have been a lot slower so they are helping us tremendously in finding people for us to collaborate with. (G/B)

13 Discussion: 4 key themes The research highlights four overarching issues relating to KT i) motivation and reward mechanisms; ii) process management and evaluation; iii) clustering and brokerage; iv) trust and bridge building.

14 Reasons for Optimism Certainly InfoLab21 appears to be deeply engaged and successful in trust and bridge building, and clustering and brokerage. Benefits to small firms: i) increased strategic focus in small firms; ii) enhanced R&D operation; iii) importance of both technical and business support; iv) awareness of core competences and needs; v) need for specific business advice

15 Findings: barriers and tensions the challenge of developing appropriate motivation and reward mechanisms, particularly for academics, to encourage engagement in KT activities. the apparent lack of evidence of appropriate evaluation mechanisms surrounding the area of knowledge exploitation generally.

16 Implications and conclusions Use of one definition of knowledge transfer in the context of commercialisation of research Need for clearer guidance on reward mechanisms in order to address issues of motivation Development of appropriate evaluation mechanisms Identification of best practice in knowledge transfer process management Extension of this study to compare another university, government agency and large company in order to identify good practice and ensure its dissemination ESRC project UPBEAT project (see leaflet)

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