University-Industry Engagement Consortium STIM: a different way to engage.
Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Italy
The Strategic Technology & Innovation Management (STIM) Consortium is an engagement platform, established in 2013 by the Institute of Manufacturing of the Cambridge University, to develop innovative approaches between academics and industries. STIM developed an Open Innovation platform for the knowledge sharing in which researchers propose to companies engagement themes.
University-industry collaboration (UIC) represents a relevant research field for scholars (Kitagawa and Lightowler, 2013; Perkmann et al., 2013; Vick and Robertson, 2018). There are several motivations for the recent rising interest about UIC as a research topic. One of them is the birth of the Open Innovation (OI) paradigm (Chesbrough, 2003). Accordingly, firms should combine the use of internal and external ideas to increase their competitive advantage in developing their new technologies. universities become important partners for the knowledge acquisition and the technology development (Chesbrough, 2012, 2006; Perkmann and Walsh, 2007; Van Gils et al., 2015; Vick and Robertson, 2018) because their knowledge provides essential theoretical understandings (Fabrizio, 2009; Fleming and Sorenson, 2004). Universities, also, promotes various knowledge exchange experiences such as consortia, platforms or networks to promote the technology transfer (D’Este and Patel, 2007; D’Este and Perkmann, 2011; Etzokowitz and Leydesdorffb, 2000; Siegel et al., 2003).
As seen above, the literature has evolved in the last years and so have done the forms of engagement pushing scholars in a continue research effort for discovering and labeling. We aim to investigate if STIM consortium is triggering a new model of academic engagement.
The purpose of this study is to show how STIM Consortium offers a broad and practical approach to academic engagement (AE) activities creating a unique model of University-Industry collaboration.
The study is based on qualitative data. We gather information from companies and scholars involved in the past STIM programs (2013-2018). The study uses a qualitative content analysis methodology (Eisenhardt, 1989; Yin, 1994) for the examination of a phenomenon in its natural environment. The method is appropriate for understanding the "how" and "why" of underexplored phenomena.
Primary data were collected during semi-structured interviews to bring out contents without influencing the interviewee; the interviews were conducted in person and lasted on average one hour (min. 30 and max. 90 minutes). Secondary data about activities and companies were collected from official reports and databases. We run two rounds of interviews, the first concerned companies and the second the scholars. In setting the interviews for defining of the AE activities, we followed the Four Central Measures approach (Perkmann et al., 2013; Vick and Robertson, 2018) that identifies the most relevant aspects of the engagement: 1. Activities, 2. Motivations, 3. Barriers, 4. Outcomes. We assumed events happened following the generic AE model (Perkmann et al., 2013) that counts five steps: identification, initiation, coordination, execution, and evaluation.
- Activities: STIM is a self-organized platform that manages companies’ expectations fitting the nature of industrial research need and offering a “knowledge buffet”. Scholars propose research projects, and managers engage those they like the most.
- Motivations: Scholars and managers engage for different reasons. Managers’ reasons are corporate social responsibility, talent scouting, problem-solving, or networking. Scholars’ are research projects funding, intellectual property development, or executive educational engagement.
a. Trust: STIM does not promote short-term work relations. Its added value lies in the fact that managers and scholars build long-term relations.
b. Firms’ Absorptive Capacity: Managers join meetings as a “knowledge buffet” seeking inspiration, but the lack of the necessary absorptive capacity might lead them to not adequate projects wasting time, resources and opportunities.
- Outcomes: Identifying the right metrics to determine the level of engagement is still an ongoing activity. First results suggest that a useful indicator for companies is the length of membership and their propensity to renew it. It is crucial to measure the general satisfaction level that companies experience in joining STIM because relevant engagement activities take place after the meetings where scholars and managers get involved in more-in-depth, parallel research activities.
Contribution to Scholarship
About the contribution to scholarship we identified a new path in the Open Innovation paradigm that goes from university to industry. Scholars propose what research activity is attractive to develop and industries join them.
Other implications regard the opportunity to study how firms develop absorptive capacity following new research path and devolving adequate R&D resources in following the new innovation strategies.
Contribution to Practice
For practitioners contribution we highlighted how it is essential for firms this sort of AE to ease the exploration phase, to identify new research trend and to evaluate new opportunities. A long-term goal of STIM’s AE Open Innovation platform is to extend the application of the model to other universities.
Other implications regard the new implementations of R&D strategies developed whiten a context of AE.
The present study is particularly adherent with the RADMA conference mission because it develops the AE issue under a new light. STIM Consortium is a platform that generates a relevant impact on involved firms' the R&D strategies. Companies engage with scholars, follow their research projects, and implement them investing money.
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Bibliometric analysis of academic spin-offs and their relationship with universities
University of Brasília, Brazil
This study traces an international picture of the relationship between academic spin-offs and universities. In Brazil, public universities are the best ranked in terms of teaching, research and innovation, but there is no study of best practices for this institution's relationship with spin-offs.
The concept of academic spin-off is related to the triple helix model proposed by Etzkowitz (2003), which discusses the relationship between company, government and university for the promotion of innovation. The academic spin-off is the result of that relationship, constituting the economic exploitation of acquired knowledge, that was developed or elaborated in an academic environment, according to Karnani (2012). The academic spin-off assumes an important role for the regional economic and social development, according to Asterbo and Bazzazian (2011). However, even with the universities importance for academic spin-offs, little has been documented about how this relationship is and how it is recommended, especially regarding policies to support entrepreneurship and innovation, according to Bezerra et. al (2017), which is the focus of this study.
According to Bezerra et. al (2017), little has been documented on innovation support networks for infrastructure promotion, development, training and funding for academic spin-offs. This study intends, from the existing literature, to propose a relationship model between university and spin-offs.
For the research, the following questions were raised: What is the literature on academic spin-offs available today? What is the relationship of these academic spin-offs with incubators? Is there a recommended template for this relationship? Which model would be most appropriate for Brazilian public universities?
The methodology of this study involved a bibliometric analysis using the spin-off and incubator descriptors in a Scopus database. The results of the research were analyzed using bibliometrics techniques in order to understand existing publications and their discussion about the relationship between academic spin-offs and universities. Since then, half of the publications obtained dating from 2012 to 2018 have been analyzed.
This research resulted initially in 93 publications, of which 60 were scientific articles and 44 of them were open access. From the open access publications, 22 were analyzed. The publications date from 2012 to 2018. In general, 45% of them discuss the importance of developing support networks that strengthen the triple helix relationship. Among these publications, only 5 discuss the formulation of policies to encourage and facilitate these partnerships. It should be pointed out that 14% of these publications come from Brazil, while all the others come from European countries, especially Italy (18%). Furthermore, 55% study universities incubators.
The results corroborate with the assertion of Bezerra et. al (2017) that it has a reduced number of contents on innovation networks and policies to support spin-offs. There is a European predominance in the publications, however it stands out the representativeness of Brazil with two publications discussing the theme regarding the innovation fostering and support as well as entrepreneurship. Brazil's representativeness is also linked to the country's innovation policies such as the Innovation Law (Law 10,973 / 2004). Both the Brazilian and European publications emphasize that the networks of partnerships come from the triple helix and must guarantee administrative support, training in entrepreneurial skills, material and immaterial resources, and especially funding. According to the publications, these partnerships can differentiate themselves as to the moment of the spin-off. In the initial stages, support focus on participants training. In the later stages, the credibility of these companies for their consolidation in the market. Only two publications consider the academic spin-off model in which the university holds part of the spin-off capital returning the investment made by them.
Contribution to Scholarship
The present study also corroborates with another assertion of Bezerra et. al (2017) regarding the scarce documentation on academic spin-offs and incubators. It demonstrates that even with the small number of cases, there are discussions about support networks and the formulation of policies to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the academic environment. It is observed the importance of Brazil in these discussions, linking to the innovation policy in the country and the relevance of the legal mechanisms for the promotion of spin-offs, also corroborating with the results of Etzkowitz (2003).
Contribution to Practice
The present study demonstrated the importance of the triple helix relationship for the promotion of innovation, noting that this relationship is based on policies to promote partnerships networks. From this relationship happens the innovation, which passes through a transfer of technology until reaching the market. This transfer was represented in the study by academic spin-offs. It was also observed that this model of technology transfer needs a government policy that strengthens the relationship between companies and universities. Still, the study raises the best practices for these policies to ensure greater effectiveness and efficiency in this relationship.
This study demonstrated the importance of innovation promotion policies and their support networks based on a bibliometric analysis. The study proved that these policies favor the emergence of academic spin-offs and strengthen the triple helix as the generator of innovation.
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The Uncertainty Challenge: Bridging Distant Industries and Research in the Fuzzy Front-End of Innovation
JOHANNES KEPLER UNIVERSITY LINZ, Austria
Uncertainty is an important issue in the front-end of innovation and especially in this phase, where the uncertainty is particularly high, openness has a crucial role. This study examines the benefits of a special form of openness - a cross-industry-collaboration (Topic: Blockchain-Technology) initiated by a research center and a university institute.
This paper builds on the following theoretical backgrounds and empirical studies.
* The “information-processing-theory” from Galbraith (1974) which explains the effects of uncertainty and argues that the greater the uncertainty, the greater the need for information.
* The open innovation approach - especially the outside-in process - where the integration of external sources of knowledge in the innovation process is explored (e.g. Chesbrough, 2003; Enkel et al., 2009).
* The idea of openness and open foresight in the fuzzy-front-end of innovation (e.g. Thanasopon et al., 2016; Wiener et al., 2017).
* Research in the field of cross-industry-collaboration – where companies from other industries are described as an important source of information and innovation (e.g. Brunswicker/Hutschek, 2010; Enkel et al., 2009).
Little effort has been put into exploring the role of openness in the front-end of innovation (Alam, 2006; Magnusson, 2009; Thanasopon et al., 2016/2018). Moreover, as far as we know there is no study which examines the role of cross-industry-collaborations in this context.
The objective of this study is to analyze whether and how openness can help to reduce uncertainty in the fuzzy front-end of innovations. Thereby, the focus is on a special form of openness – a collaboration between firms from different industries, a research center and a university institute.
Based on the characteristics of the presented objective of this study and the limited scientific research, an explorative, qualitative research strategy has been chosen. In this qualitative study, a cross-industry-collaboration of seven companies was analyzed. These companies were faced with a high degree of uncertainty in the fuzzy front-end of innovation regarding the following issue: What innovation potential does blockchain technology offer for our products and processes? This collaboration in the front-end of innovation lasted twelve months and was initiated by a research center for mechatronics and a university institute.
The research process was characterized by three stages during which qualitative data was obtained using semi-structured interviews (Myers and Newman 2007) and observation. The first stage was set before the start of the cross-industry-collaboration project. Participants were asked about the uncertainty regarding the innovation potential of the blockchain technology for their organizations. The second stage, consisting of the participant-observation, was set during the joint workshops. In particular, the group discussions in the workshops and the presentations and discussions of the company cases were observed. The last stage was set after the project to generate data via semi-structured interviews about the impact and the abilities of the project in terms of reducing uncertainty.
In this way, different data sources were incorporated in order to reach a level of data triangulation (Denzin, 1978) which in turn allows the avoidance of bias based in the data itself.
During this research process, data from seven companies, who have participated in the research project, was collected. Hence 44 interviews were conducted during the different stages of the research process. The analysis of the qualitative data was done by first and second level coding in regard to the suggested method by Miles et al. (2014).
The observations during the project, and in particular the qualitative interviews at the end of the project, showed that this collaboration with different companies, a research center and a university institute reduced many uncertainties regarding the innovation and disruption potential of blockchain technology.
The diversity of the participating organizations (different companies from different industries, a research center and a university institute) was emphasized as a particular advantage in terms of knowledge sharing, the development of new knowledge and the reduction of uncertainty.
“From my perspective, that’s a dream, because I have the whole breadth and I can absorb the opinions of many areas.” (Interview partner of a participating company)
Particular emphasis was placed on the diversity of input, the possibility to generate completely different new ideas, the common development of new knowledge regarding blockchain, and the “out-of-the-box-thinking”.
“And most of all, to do this together with others, to get to know other perspectives and other application scenarios, which we can also deduce for ourselves … that's a big asset of this project.” (Interview partner of a participating company)
Contribution to Scholarship
With this study, a contribution to the important and as yet under-researched topic of openness in the front-end can be delivered. In particular the advantages of a collaboration with companies from different industries, a research center and a university institute in the front-end of innovation can be presented.
Based on the “information-processing” theory of Galbraith (1974), we show how this collaborative approach can reduce uncertainty through the sharing of information and development of new knowledge. Furthermore, we contribute to the under-researched field of cross-industry collaboration in the front-end of innovation (Brunswicker/Hutschek, 2010; Enkel et al., 2009). We also found that the interaction with actors from distant knowledge domains (therefore with different perspectives and challenges and different application areas), is very helpful for reducing uncertainty in the front-end of innovation, in this case, in terms of the innovation- and disruption potential of blockchain technology.
Contribution to Practice
This study shows that companies can reduce uncertainty in the front-end of innovation when they open up and engage in activities with other companies. A cooperation with actors from distant knowledge domains – e.g. with firms from different industries, research centers and university institutes can offer special advantages. In this way different perspectives and various challenges can be discussed and new application areas can be explored. In addition, out-of-the-box-thinking can be promoted.
Moreover, such a cooperation offers the opportunity to exploit synergies and to reduce the costs of analysis and research, since these activities are carried out together.
In this study we explore the “Uncertainty Challenge in Innovation”. We show how “bridging distant industries and research institutes” in the front-end of innovation can reduce the level of uncertainty and can promote the development of new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking.
* Alam, I. (2006), Removing the fuzziness from the fuzzy front-end of service innovations through customer interactions, Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 468–480.
* Brunswicker, S. and Hutschek, U. (2010), Crossing horizons: Leveraging cross-industry innovation search in the front-end of the innovation process, International Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 14, No. 04, pp. 683–702.
* Chesbrough, H. (2003), Open innovation. The new imperative for creating and profiting from technology, Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.
* Denzin, N. K. (1978), The research act. A theoretical introduction to sociological methods, New York: McGraw-Hill.
* Enkel, E., Gassmann, O. and Chesbrough, H. (2009), Open R&D and open innovation: exploring the phenomenon, R&D Management, Vol. 39, No. 4, pp. 311–316.
* Galbraith, J. R. (1974), Organization Design An Information Processing View, Interfaces, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 28–36.
* Magnusson, P. R. (2009), Exploring the Contributions of Involving Ordinary Users in Ideation of Technology-Based Services, Journal of Product Innovation Management, Vol. 26, No. 5, pp. 578–593.
* Miles, Matthew B.; Huberman, A. M.; Saldaña, Johnny (2014): Qualitative data analysis. A methods sourcebook. Third edition. Thousand Oaks, Califorinia: SAGE Publications.
* Myers, Michael D.; Newman, Michael (2007): The qualitative interview in IS research: Examining the craft. In Information and Organization Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 2–26.
* Thanasopon, B., Papadopoulos, T. and Vidgen, R. (2016), The role of openness in the fuzzy front-end of service innovation, Technovation, Vol. 47, pp. 32–46.
* Thanasopon, B., Papadopoulos, T., Vidgen, R., Thanasopon, B., Papadopoulos, T. und Vidgen, R. (2018): How Do Firms Open Up the Front-End of Service Innovation? A Case Study of It-Based Service Firms in Thaila, International Journal of Innovation Management, 22, 01, 1850010.
* Wiener, M., Gattringer, R. and Strehl, F. (2017), Participation in inter-organisational collaborative open foresight. A matter of culture, Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 1–17.
Technology Transfer Office Directors: An Exploratory Study of Job Roles, Responsibilities and Impact
1Northumbria University, UK; 2Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany
With the changing nature of universities’ missions extending to technology transfer and knowledge commercialization, there has been a growth in the formal creation of Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) or their equivalents in universities’ organizational structure.
The remit of these TTOs as intermediaries can be defined very narrowly or broadly, depending on the type of university and its defined remit in this arena. One of the primary activities of TTOs is the protection and transfer of universities’ intellectual property (IP) as well as the support of the knowledge commercialization process, bringing universities’ inventions to the market via patenting, licensing, and startup creation. With the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 in the United States, there has been a significant expansion in the establishment of TTOs within universities and the creation of new roles within these offices (Mowery et al., 2001). Existing empirical studies of TTOs have mainly focused on the performance and effectiveness of these offices in supporting university commercialization in different contexts (see US: Siegel et al., 2003; UK: Chapple et al., 2005; Italy: Muscio, 2010; Germany: Hülsbeck et al., 2013).
These studies have expanded our understanding of this relatively new institutional structure. However, no study to date has explicitly examined the role of TTO directors, which is the focus of this paper.
Among existing studies, there has been no focus on the TTO director as an invisible actor in driving, influencing, shaping, and implementing universities’ TTOs. Our study seeks to address this imbalance by examining the role, responsibilities and impact of TTO directors through an international examination of job advertisements of TTOs.
Based on our content analysis, we investigate job descriptions of TTO directors in order to analyze their job roles, responsibilities and impact.
Our sample of 110 TTO job descriptions thereby mainly covers the Anglo-Saxon context, i.e. Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
We find a large variation in job titles, responsibilities, TTO size as well as qualification profiles with regard to seniority and organizational positioning. Job descriptions while using different terminologies particularly with respect to skills, competences and experience, our results show that many TTO job positions required knowledge of IP and prior commercial experience typically at a senior level, coupled with experience of operational and strategic management. Whereas there has been a traditional emphasis on legal skills, protecting the university’s intellectual property portfolio, TTO employees and especially TTO directors need to have strong technical and commercial backgrounds as well as the ability to recognize opportunities and be familiar with other aspects of commercialization such as marketing, finance, etc. (see Siegel, 2018). We further find variations in the role descriptions for the position of TTO directors and some evidence that this is influenced by the universities’ strategic mission and TTOs’ maturity.
Contribution to Scholarship
We conclude our paper by outlining a research agenda designed to stimulate studies on TTO directors. Especially the alignment between universities’ missions and strategic priorities which is among others reflected in universities’ resource allocation patterns and the individual motives and incentives of TTO directors seems to be decisive, hence calls for more research in this field.
Contribution to Practice
Our research enables university mangers to better understand the job roles, responsibilities and impact of TTO directors, hence enables them to more efficiently allocate resources towards TTOs and ultimately augment university performance.
Our study links mechanisms and processes of TTOs with job roles and responsibilities of TTO directors, hence provides a more holistic picture on technology transfer processes and its impact.
Chapple, W., Lockett, A., Siegel, D., & Wright, M. (2005). Assessing the relative performance of UK university technology transfer offices: parametric and non-parametric evidence. Research Policy, 34(3), 369-384.
Hülsbeck, M., Lehmann, E. E., & Starnecker, A. (2013). Performance of technology transfer offices in Germany. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 38(3), 199-215.
Mowery, D. C., Nelson, R. R., Sampat, B. N., & Ziedonis, A. A. (2001). The growth of patenting and licensing by US universities: an assessment of the effects of the Bayh–Dole act of 1980. Research Policy, 30(1), 99-119.
Muscio, A. (2010). What drives the university use of technology transfer offices? Evidence from Italy. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 35(2), 181-202.
Siegel, D. S., Waldman, D. A., Atwater, L. E., & Link, A. N. (2003). Commercial knowledge transfers from universities to firms: improving the effectiveness of university–industry collaboration. The Journal of High Technology Management Research, 14(1), 111-133.
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