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On Knowledge Transfer

Knowledge transfer or exchange is the new frontier in academia. It comes under different names: valorisation, knowledge exploitation, tech transfer, to just name a few.

It concerns itself with bridging the gap between academic research and real world practical application. It forms part of the contextual shift towards knowledge economies and the widespread conviction that universities and academic research institutes should and can play an active role - beyond their traditional role as "ivory towers' concerned with knowledge production.

In the past few years, I supported an effort to create the institutional capacity for knowledge exchange/transfer and have often reflected on how that experience could inform broader efforts to embed this kind of thinking in academic research institutions. Supporting academics navigate the complex process involved in turning their cutting edge research into commercial products/services (beyond the "valley of death") requires first and foremost a change in mind-sets before we attempt to unlock the multiple roadblocks one may find.

Assuming that mind-sets are already conducive to what may sound self-evident is naive at best. The worlds of academia and practice are different, driven by different missions, incentive structures and mental models, so one must begin with addressing the mind-set challenge before doing anything else. Assuming that academics are intrinsically motivated to identify, organise and build new enterprises (beyond mere 'research') may often be at odds with what academics regard as their 'calling'.

But more on this challenge in a future post!

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