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Knowledge transfer: a qualitative investigation of the UK low carbon innovation system

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posted on 01.10.2018 by Suzi Muchmore
Innovation programmes require organisations to transfer both technology and knowledge to the diverse actors who operate within innovation eco-systems. The changing relationship between science and society has witnessed the growth of public private partnerships (PPP) to create new knowledge, while also triggering the emergence of a new role for universities as catalysts for innovation. This brings many challenges, stemming from the inherent nature of knowledge and the complex interactions involved with inter-disciplinary knowledge transfer. Concurrently, these public-funded programmes come under increasing scrutiny to demonstrate greater societal and economic impact as a return on research investment. Knowledge generated within the UK low carbon energy innovation system has the potential to facilitate the achievement of national emission targets. However, while knowledge may be successfully created, there is no guarantee that it will be disseminated and utilised in a way that contributes to the achievement of knowledge-related objectives. Current literature concentrates on the micro level inhibitors and enablers of knowledge transfer; however, a gap in empirical work which investigates system level knowledge interactions is evident. Research and practical application in this field has historically centred on technology transfer whilst under-emphasising the crucial role of knowledge within this complex, socio-technical innovation system. The overall aim of this qualitative study is to achieve a better understanding of the influences of knowledge transfer across a defined innovation system. This is achieved through the perceptions of participants via two case studies; one in a PPP and one in a University. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with twenty-eight participants, along with document analysis and participant observation at workshops, to investigate the participant perceptions. A three tier (macro-, meso- and micro-level) data analysis approach was adopted to reflect the systems level interactions. The study found that knowledge transfer is often perceived as the dissemination of information via explicit forms of knowledge, which may or may not be used by stakeholders to achieve innovation objectives. The main barriers to stakeholders utilising knowledge included: accessibility to knowledge; fit-for-purpose knowledge; stakeholder motivation/ability to use the knowledge; and viewing knowledge as an object. While there is an emerging impact agenda in academia, cultural and normative influences direct researchers towards traditional academic outputs (e.g. publications). Knowledge utilisation by stakeholders was found to be maximised through relational, stakeholder driven models, which view knowledge as a process. Knowledge utilisation was context specific, and, due to complex system influences, was never guaranteed to occur. Although planning for knowledge utilisation was undertaken at both the PPP and the University, implementing and measuring results was found to be difficult due to dynamic system influences such as understanding stakeholder motivations, resourcing constraints and complexity in the desired project outcomes. This makes adaptability and responsiveness important qualities for knowledge producers, while also necessitating specific skill sets. Based on this work, a set of principles were developed which should guide more effective utilisation of knowledge and promote more impactful research outcomes.



  • Business and Economics


  • Business


© Suzi Muchmore

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.