Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
20-PM2-08: ST10.4 - Transfer From Research to Industry and Society: The Role of the Fuzzy Front End in Scientific
Thursday, 20/Jun/2019:
2:45pm - 4:15pm

Session Chair: Luise Fischer, Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy, Leipig
Session Chair: Anna Pohle, Fraunhofer IMW
Location: Room PC 21

Session Abstract

Despite the extensive research activities in industrial countries, exploitation of research results remains unsatisfactory. Yet, scientific commercialisation or innovation is an important – but often underused – force for the respective national economies as well as the global market. Studies have shown that particularly the early phase of innovation – the fuzzy front end – is key in managing successful innovations in companies. Yet, this transition phase from science into innovation is understudied in the field of academic research. We therefore offer a paper track that places focus on understanding the fuzzy front end and the related mechanisms that trigger or hinder the transfer of scientific knowledge into innovation both on the level of individuals and organisations within and across countries.

Research organisations still struggle to commercialize their technologies. The transition between (basic) research and the commercialization of research often fails. This phenomenon is called the ‘Valley of death’ and is known as the phase where potential inventions and discoveries go to die. In the context of research organisations it is also called the ‘research valley of death’ or the ‘translation gap’ and focusses on challenges of research organisations in this phase. In contrast to the valley of death (VoD) within the company context, universities face the aggravating factor that the transition of knowledge and technologies happens between different organisations: from research to industry. The different perspectives and intentions of research organisations and companies hamper the transition. Strategies to bridge the research VoD become increasingly important. We argue that research organisation would benefit from approaches which intervene during the idea creation – the so called fuzzy front end (FFE) of innovation. The FFE is defined as the early phase of innovation that concerned with finding ideas and teams. The successful management of the FFE can bridge the VoD – also for research institutions.

We thus propose that universities and research (technology) organisations would benefit from a better understanding and management of the FFE. We suggest that studying the characteristics, role and potentials of scientific transfer mechanisms would benefit the exploitation of scientific research results. More particularly, the track welcomes papers that examine new tools, methods and strategies that ease the transition from research into society. We would like to invite contributions that inquire the following areas:

(1) What new forms of R&D management practices and/or transfer mechanisms are needed in research organisations to help researchers apply their knowledge to real-life situations and to support them enter into commercialisation agreements for their findings? How can the fuzzy front end contribute?

(2) What role should universities and academic research play in order to bridge the areas of research, industry and society?

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Big Science, technology transfer and industry: evidence from a collection of case studies

Martina Dal Molin1, Deepa Scarrà2, Veronica Valsecchi1

1Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, Italy; 2Scuola di Studi Superiori Sant'Anna, Italy


Big Science centres could represent a learning environment for companies: they need the development of complex and large-scale Research Infrastructures, developed with industries. Moreover, with its non-commercial specific orientation, they can generate new knowledge and problem solving capabilities, leading to the generation of revolutionary ideas (Czarnitzkia and Thorwartha, 2012).


Pioneer studies mainly focused on the solely economic perspective, showing that Big Science centres positively affect the productivity rate of supplier companies, favouring, in turn, local and national economic growth (Mansfield, 1998; Griliches, 1992). More recent studies (e.g. Castelnovo et al., 2018; Florio et al., 2017) provided relevant insight on the ability of Big Science centres to act as “learning environment,” (Autio et al., 2003) favouring their partners in the acquisition of technical knowledge, the realization of new or improved products and entry in new market.

Literature Gap

Empirical evidence on the fact that Big Science centres act as learning environment for industry is still. Extant studies have focused on detecting technology transfer impact on industry through quantitative approach, while limited attention have been devoted to the process itself and how it generates impact on companies.

Research Questions

Two research questions are addressed: how does the process of technology transfer work and which are its peculiarities in the case of Big Science? Which is the impact generated on partner companies and how it relates to the process?


To address the above mentioned research questions, this study relies on a qualitative research approach. Specifically, to gather a deeper understanding of the technology transfer process and on related impact on companies, a collection of case studied have been investigated through direct interviews. The unit of analysis is represented by 5 differentiated companies that have collaborated or collaborate with an Italian Big Science centre, the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (Istituto Italiano di Fisica Nucleare, INFN).

Empirical Material

Two sources of empirical material have been collected and analysed: transcription of direct interviews and published economic and financial data of the selected companies. Interviews have been carried out through an established protocol that has been then analysed through deductive Content Analysis procedure.


Interviews reported two relevant results. First of all, the technology transfer process in the case of Big Science is characterized by specific peculiarities mainly due to the technicalities and the front-end technologies needed by Big Science research facilities. This favours a continuous interaction between researchers and companies, in order to develop, test and refine the technological products. The second result, strongly related to the peculiarities of Big Science technology transfer process, is the fact that the impact on companies relies on the intangible dimensions (acquisition of technical knowledge and image improvement), it leads to organizational changes (e.g. the introduction of focused new organizational units and improved investment in R&D activities) and also in entering in completely new market, thanks to the newly acquired competencies.

Contribution to Scholarship

This paper contributes to the current literature in two ways. First, it focuses on the particular case of Big Science, whose impact on industry, although potentially relevant, has been understudied yet. Second, it provides empirical evidence of how the technology transfer works in Big Science and related impact dimensions to assess it.

Contribution to Practice

At the practical level, this paper provides evidence that also a qualitative research approach can be a suitable research tool to understand technology transfer and related impact. Furthermore, it provides empirical evidence of the relational elements that favour the transfer of knowledge and that support both Big Science centres and industry managers in maximizing the benefits of the collaboration


The paper addresses a central topic related to the main theme of the R&D Management conference 2019, that deals with the relationship between research and industries, the exploitation of research results and related impact assessment.


Autio, E., Hameri, A.P. and Vuola, O., (2004), “A framework of industrial spillovers in big-science centers”, Research Policy, 33: 107-126.

Autio, E., Bianchi-Streit, M and Hameri, A.P., (2003), “Technology transfer and technological learning through CERN’s procurement activity”, CERN-2003-005.

Autio, P., Hameri, A.P. and Nordberg, M., (1996), “A framework of motivations for industry-big science collaboration: a case study”, Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, 13: 301-314.

Castelnovo, P., Florio, M., Forte, S., Rossi, L. And Sirtori, E., (2018 forthcoming), “The economic impact of technological procurement for large scale research infrastructures: evidence from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN”, Research Policy,

Czarnitzkia, D. and Torwarta, S., (2012), “Productivity rate effects of basic research in low-tech and high-tech industries”, Research Policy, 1555-1564.

Mansfield, E., (1998), “Academic research and industrial innovation: an update of empirical findings”, Research Policy, 26: 773-776

Griliches, Z., (1992), “The search for R&D spillovers”, Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 94 (supplement), S29-S47.

Florio, M., Giffoni, F., Giunta, A. and Sirtori E. (2017), Big science, learning and innovation: evidence from CERN procurement. ISSN 2279-6916 Working papers (Dipartimento di Economia Università degli studi Roma Tre) Forthcoming on: Industrial and corporate and change.

Knowledge transfer management in public research organisations: what drives the choice between different organisational models?

Federica Rossi1, Maryam Ghorbankhani2

1Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom; 2Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom


Despite growing interest in the management of knowledge transfer (KT) processes within the public research system, most research so far has focused on universities, rather than on public research organisations (PROs). This study aims to expand our knowledge of how PROs organise their KT processes.


Like universities, PROs are increasingly expected to contribute to national economic growth by transferring knowledge to external stakeholders, primarily businesses. PROs disseminate their research outcomes through a variety of channels such as scientific publications, contract research with industry, patenting and licensing, mobility of academic staff and conferences, promotion of academic start-ups (D’Este and Patel, 2007; Perkmann and Walsh, 2007; NCUB, 2016) as well as through more market-oriented activities like the provision of prototyping, analysis and testing, calibration and certification services (Coccia and Rolfo, 2002). In recent years, these channels have been complemented by public-private partnerships, open science initiatives, and entrepreneurial channels (Cervantes and Meissner, 2014).

While a substantial amount of academic literature has investigated the engagement of the public research sector in knowledge transfer (KT) to industry, the specificities of the KT activities of PROs (intended as non-university government research institutions) remain under-researched.

Literature Gap

Findings from studies of universities cannot be immediately transposed to PROs, which differ in many respects, including their research (responsive to government priorities), teaching (absent or limited to doctoral supervision and professional training), subject focus (specialisation in one or few closely related fields), and governance (varied ownership and management structures).

Research Questions

This study addresses one aspect of the research gap around PROs’ KT engagement, by investigating the strategic and organisational factors that drive PROs’ choice whether to integrate or outsource KT management functions.


Building on theories of knowledge process outsourcing, we develop a conceptual framework linking the choice to outsource KT management functions to strategic and organisational factors. We then test the conceptual framework empirically by exploiting a unique, purposefully constructed panel dataset of 33 PROs in the United Kingdom, built from public administrative records (annual reports and financial returns) for the six financial years between 2011/2012 and 2016/2017).

Empirical Material

This study exploits a unique, purposefully constructed panel dataset of 33 PROs in the United Kingdom for six financial years from 2011/2012 to 2016/2017, built from public administrative records (annual reports and financial returns). The development of the sample of PROs has been quite laborious, since no comprehensive official list of PROs in the country exists, and the sector has seen numerous changes over time. We created a comprehensive list of currently active PROs by analysing eight recent studies of PROs in the UK. We then collected information from the PROs’ annual financial statements, including number of employees, size and composition of governing board, funding sources, distinguishing between public funding (core and competitive) and private funding, number and types of subsidiary companies (wholly owned by the PRO) and of associate companies (partly owned by the PRO), number of spinouts, number of incubators and/or science parks the PRO is directly or indirectly affiliated with. Information about the PROs' patenting activities was collected from the European Patent Office’s database. The numbers of scientific publications of each PRO in each year were collected from the Scopus database.


This study shows that PROs adopt a variety of arrangements to organise their KT management: some manage their KT activities entirely in-house, other outsource some or all of their activities to external companies. We find that PROs are more likely to outsource if: they are less closely aligned with their connected and external stakeholders (PROs that are not government-owned and managed, and PROs with a smaller number of governing board members); they are smaller; they engage in patenting; they perform research in less technologically uncertain (more applied) fields.

Contribution to Scholarship

Our findings shed light on organisational practices within a sector that so far has not been studied extensively from a management perspective. We support the majority of the arguments put forth by the organisational literature on the outsourcing of knowledge processes. Also in the case of PROs - similarly to what has been found in the case of private businesses - the outsourcing of knowledge processes is more likely if these processes are non-core to the organisation’s strategy, if they do not require the development of organisation-specific capabilities, if they do not involve a high degree of technological uncertainty, and if the organisation does not perform them on a large scale.

Contribution to Practice

This study has a number of implications for policy. PROs that are closely affiliated with government and that are more accountable to numerous external stakeholders might be more reluctant to outsource KT functions, and therefore they might welcome the provision of training and other initiatives aimed at improving their internal KT management capabilities. For PROs that outsource KT functions, it would be more important to gain better understanding of the appropriate combination of outsourced and in-house competences they need, and to be able to rely on good quality and affordable external advice on KT.


Greater understanding of the drivers of different approaches to KT management can provide useful guidance to PROs and policymakers that wish to boost KT effectiveness. Supporting public sector innovation requires an overarching strategy on the part of government to introduce organisational innovations and practices that support KT.


Cervantes, M, & Meissner, D (2014), ‘Commercialising public research under the open innovation model: new trends’, Journal of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 70–81

Coccia, M, & Rolfo, S (2002), ‘Technology transfer analysis in the Italian National Research Council’, Technovation, vol. 22, no. 5, pp.291-299.

D’Este, P, & Patel, P (2007), ‘University-industry linkages in the UK: what are the factors underlying the variety of interactions with industry?’ Research Policy, vol. 36, pp.1295-1313.

NCUB (2016), ‘The changing state of knowledge exchange: UK academic interactions with external organizations 2005-2015’, London: National Centre for Universities and Business.

Perkmann, M, & Walsh, K (2007), ‘University–industry relationships and open innovation: Towards a research agenda’ International Journal of Management Reviews, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 259-280.

A living lap approach in regional innovation policy research: An empirical experiment in Finland

Liting Liang

The University of Vaasa, Finland


A living lap approach is one type of action research engaging stakeholders in joint value co-creation towards shared goals in a real-life setting. We adopt the living lap approach in our policy study of Sino-Finnish capacity building towards an international oriented regional innovation system in the Vaasa region in Finland.


As one type of participatory action research, the living lap approach seeks to understand a real life problem by fostering the joint value co-creation of researchers and practitioners during the research process towards shared goals of understanding and solving the research problem in a real-life setting. The concept of Living Labs (LLs) was firstly introduced by MIT Professor William Mitchell in 2004 and then officially supported by European Commission in 2006 when it launched the European Network of Living Laps (ENoLL) (Maccani et al., 2017). Since then, the development of LLs has taken off in both theory and practice. However academic understanding of LLs still remains inconsistent and contradictory. There have been a large variety of approaches labeled LLs with diverging characteristics (e.g. Dutilleul et al, 2010; Følstad, 2008; Westerlund and Leminen, 2014).

Literature Gap

Research on living laps has been mostly based on innovation/technology projects in limited fields (ICTs and other artefacts). The diversified views on LLs suggest that the living lap approach can be adopted in a wide range of life settings for human-centric research.

Research Questions

How effective is the living lap approach in innovation policy research? And why?


This paper draws on a EU funded project where a living lap approach is adopted in the policy study of Sino-Finnish capacity building towards an international oriented regional innovation system in the Vaasa region in Finland. Instead of collecting feedbacks from key actors in the regional innovation system, we work directly with regional officials on promoting Sino-Finnish cooperation cross business, education, policy development and citizen engagement in the region with the aim of developing an effective international oriented regional innovation strategy collaboratively.

Empirical Material

The data is obtained via participant observations during the process and documentary analysis on the basis of 12 strategic planning meetings, 14 interviews and 36 emails as well participate observation note from September 2018 to February 2019.


Our empirical investigation is conducted by distinguishing outcomes in scientific knowledge production and tangible problem solving. It proves the living approach as a highly effective research method in terms of knowledge production. The meshing of innovation policy theory with real-life experimentation allows us to deepen understanding of theories and generate insights over policy issues. However, the research process has faced a number of challenges including: the lack of trust from the other actors in the living lap; constraints of resources and competences; and competing research objectives.

On the other hand, the effectiveness of the approach in terms of tangible problem solving might be relatively low due to stakeholders’ misinterpretation of the role of the researchers and also changes to practical objectives. As a result, we are struggling with the achievement of desire results in making changes during the experiments.

Overall the empirical study confirms a tension between the research space and the characteristics of the real-life environment in the adoption of the living lap approach (Almirall and Wareham, 2011). However, our empirical experiment shows such tension can be solved by a collective learning loop consisting of five stages: co-planning, co-production of knowledge, co-analysis, co-reflection and co-evaluation.

Contribution to Scholarship

The research promotes the theoretical development of living laps by expanding its adoption from innovation and technological development to innovation policy study. Our research also turns the LLs as effective policy instruments into an effective research method in the filed of innovation policy study,. Methodologically, we offer empirical evidence that deepens the understanding of the research method as a particular type of action research.

Contribution to Practice

We offer policy makers a collaborative approach in defining policy problems and planning policy action. More importantly, we provide an opportunity to engage key actors in the regional innovation ecosystem to develop an effective international oriented open innovation strategy.


By nature our study fits very well with the main topic of this year by offering an effective research approach that bridges research, industry and society.


Almirall, E., Wareham, J., 2011. Living Labs: arbiters of mid- and ground-level innovation. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management 23, 87–102.

Dutilleul, B., Birrer, F.A.J., Mensink, Wouter, 2010. Unpacking European Living Labs: Analysing Innovation’s Social Dimensions. Central European Journal of Public Policy 4, 60–85.

Følstad, A., n.d. Living labs for innovation and development of information and communication technology: a literature review. Living Labs 10, 33.

Maccani, Giovanni; McLoughlin, Shane; Prendergast, David; Donnellan, n.d. Positioning Living Labs within Action Design Research: Preliminary Findings from a Systematic Literature Review, in: Designing the Digital Transformation: DESRIST 2017 Research in Progress Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Design Science Research in Information Systems and Technology. Presented at the International Conference on Design Science Research in Information Systems and Technology, 30 May - 1 Jun.

Karslruhe: Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany, pp. 119–127.

Westerlund, M., Leminen, S., 2011. Managing the Challenges of Becoming an Open Innovation Company: Experiences from Living Labs. Technology Innovation Management Review 7.

Demand for speed is driving innovation in the Brazilian footwear industry

Sérgio Roberto Knorr Velho1,2, Sanderson Cesar Macedo Barbalho1

1University of Brasilia; 2Brazilian Ministery of Science Technology, Innovation and Communications


The Brazilian footwear industry places Brazil as the fourth largest footwear producer in the world behind Vietnam and the 11th exporter (Abicalçados 2018) and this article seeks to understand the importance of innovation for this industrial sector.


Marques, Leal, Marques, & Cardoso (2016) promote a better understanding of the effects of strategic knowledge management (SKM) on innovation and performance in the Portuguese footwear industry.

Cavalheiro; & Brandao (2017) examined the intellectual property (IP) portfolio of the largest Brazilian footwear firms.

Pereira; Sellitto; & Borchardt (2010) presented an analysis of the changes observed between 1990 and 2008 in the current competition factors in the footwear industry of Sinos River Valley (Brazilian footwear cluster) aimed at exporting to large retail chains in the United States.

Tristão; Oprime; & Pimenta (2015) contributed to the theoretical development of the theme by the proposition of an industrial cluster typology method considering that the set of local variables related to the firm’s characteristics are essential for the strengthening of the interfirm’ relationship and consequently their performance.

Literature Gap

Despite a survey conducted by Tristão, Oprime, & Silva (2013) that found that there is cooperation between the companies in the productive arrangement studied, and that shoe manufacturers are those who, predominantly, stimulate innovation within the cluster, academic studies in this field remain scarce.

Research Questions

What is the main trends in the Brazilian footwear innovation in the context of industry 4.0? What kind of technologies and IP are being search in these context? What kind of products are being developed? There is radical innovation or only incremental ones?


The data used in this work were collected in the Scopus database and the research was conducted in two phases:

In Phase 1 a systematic review of the literature was performed where the scope of the study is defined and three stages can be identified.

In Phase 2 a SLNA (Systematic Literature Network Analysis) methodology was used, consisting of a bibliometric analysis and visualization networks, where the network of citations and the network of key words are considered. In order to carry out this bibliometric analysis the VoS viewer is able to analyze bibliometric networks.

Empirical Material

Performing the search on march 2019, in the Scopus database of scientific data, 277 documents were published between 2008 and 2018 but none made a review that the survey may indicate the main areas of innovation in the footwear industry. Analyzing the documents by country Brazil has 17 documents and is the 6th on the list leader by US with 40 documents. From this 277 documents 57,4% are articles and 25,3% are Conference papers. The three main subjects of these 277 documents are: 19,8% Business Management. 16,1% are Engineering and 10,5% are Social Sciences.


The preliminary results of these 277 documents indicate the existence of seventeen clusters of research in the subject with a connection of authors. It is hoped that the survey may indicate the main areas of use of technologies in the footwear industry. Some applications are on orthopedics, insole design and additive manufacturing (AM).

Contribution to Scholarship

When scientific articles indicate what are the trends in the research, which are the main clusters of topics studied and which are the main researchers and research groups, this facilitates the identification by the industry that can use this knowledge to promote innovation.

Contribution to Practice

Managers of footwear industry are afraid of mass producers attack in high end markets. Addictive manufacturing and other technologies can contribute also to sophisticated products, but process technology must be developed. This study shows which technologies are being developed by the Brazilian footwear industry to keep it on the border of new market trends like fast fashion and additive manufacturing (AM).


Addressing the gaps between Brazilian footwear industry and new industrial technologies is a fundamental step for bridging the gap between academia and industry, this year's congress theme.


Attaran, M. (2017). The rise of 3-D printing: The advantages of additive manufacturing over traditional manufacturing. Kelley School of Business. Indiana University. Business Horizons 60: pp. 677-688.

Cavalheiro, Gabriel Marcusso do Canto; & Brandao, Mariana. (2017). Assessing the IP portfolio of industrial clusters: the case of the Brazilian footwear industry. Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management. Vol. 28. Issue 8, pp.994-1010.

Colichia, C,; & Strozzi, F. (2012). Supply Chain Risk Management : a new methodology for a systematic literature review. Supply Chain Management: An International Journal 17 (4); pp.403-418.

Gao, W.; Zhang, Y.; Ramanujan, D.; Ramani, K; Chen, Y.; Williams, C.B.; Wang, C.C.L.; Shin, Y.C.; Zhang, S.; & Zavattieri, P.D. (2015). The status, challenges, and future of additive manufacturing in engineering. Computer-Aided Design 69: pp.65-89.

Jiang, R.; Kleer, R.; & Piller, F. (2017). Predicting the future of additive manufacturing: A Delphi study on economic and societal implications of 3D printing for 2030. Technological Forecasting & Social Change 117 (2017) pp.84-97.

Marques, Carla Susana ; Leal, Carmen; Marques, Carlos Peixeira; & Cardoso, Ana rita. (2016) Strategic Knowledge Management, Innovation and Performance: a qualitative study of the footwear industry. J. Knowl. Econ. N.7.pp 659-675.

Pereira, Giancarlo Medeiros; Sellitto, Miguel Afonso; & Borchardt, Miriam. (2010). Alterações nos fatores de competição da indústria calçadista exportadora devido à entrada de competidores asiáticos. Produção. V.20, n.2, pp. 149-159.

Salles, A.S.; & Gy,D.E. (2013). An evaluation of personalized insoles developed using additive manufacturing. Journal of Sports Sciences, 31 (4), pp.442-450.

Sodhi, M. ; & Tang, C.S. (2017). Supply Chains Built for Speed and Customization. MIT Sloan Management Review, 58(4), p. 58419.

Strange, R.; & Zucchella, A. (2017). Industry 4.0, global value chains and international business. Multinational Business Review, Vol. 25 Issue: 3, pp.174-184.

Strozzi, F.; Colicchia, C.; Creazza, A.; & Noé, C. (2017). Literature review on the ‘Smart Factory’ concept using bibliometric tools. International Journal of Production Research.p.20. ISSN:0020-7543 (Print) 1366-588X (Online).

Tristão, Hélcio Martins; Oprime, Pedro Carlos; & Pimenta, Márcio Lopes. (2015). Characteristics of relationships, types and strategies in a Brazilian cluster. International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management. Vol. 65. Issue: 4, pp.485-502.

Tristão, Hélcio Martins; Oprime, Pedro Carlos; & Silva, Sérgio Luís da. (2013). Innovation in Industrial Clusters: a Survey of Footwear Companies in Brazil. Journal of Technology Management & Innovation, Vol. 8, Issue 3, pp.45-56.

Van Eck, N.J.; & Waltman, L. (2010). Software Survey: VOSviewer, a Computer Program for Bibliometric Mapping. Scientometrics 84 (2): pp. 523-538.

Zhao, D; & Strotmann, A. (2015). Analysis and Visualization of Citation Networks. Synthesis Lectures on Information Concepts, Retrival, and Services 7 (1); pp.1-2017.

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