University of Sussex
Węckowska,_Dagmara_Maria.pdf (3.95 MB)

Learning the ropes of the commercialisation of academic research: a practice-based approach to learning in knowledge transfer offices

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posted on 2023-06-15, 14:55 authored by Dagmara Weckowska
Exploitation of the knowledge generated by university research can bring social and economic benefits; thus, knowledge transfer between universities and industry is an important aspect of public policy. In many countries, including the United Kingdom (UK), universities have been developing the capacity to support the commercialisation of publicly funded research, typically by setting up centralised Knowledge Transfer Offices (KTOs). Previous studies have revealed that KTOs need a wide range of abilities to support the commercialisation of academic research, but our understanding of how these abilities are developed and have evolved over time remains limited. In order to address this identified gap in the literature, this thesis examines the questions: What do KTOs learn? How do KTOs learn? and Why do KTOs learn? To address these questions, the thesis adopts a practice-based view of organisational knowledge and learning. The conceptual framework developed to investigate learning by KTOs assumes that their commercialisation practice is learnt through the interactions of their staff within communities of practice, within networks of practice and across communities of practice, and that this learning can be initiated by KTO staff or by targeted strategies devised by the KTO and the university’s management. This conceptual framework guides the case studies of six purposefully selected KTOs in the UK. The selection of KTOs is aimed at identifying cases with different learning patterns in order to maximise insights gained from cross-case comparisons as well as at literal replication of the findings. The analysis is based on data collected from semi-structured interviews with key staff in selected KTOs and on information from relevant documents, and follows the ‘explanation building’ technique (Yin, 2009). The findings reveal that KTOs tend to develop one of two types of commercialisation practice – each of which is based on different implicit assumptions about generating science-based innovation, and associated with a different set of abilities. Moreover, the findings demonstrate the processes by which changes in practice come about, highlighting the interplay between situated learning and strategic practices of management. The results presented address the aforementioned gap in the literature on university-industry knowledge transfer and contribute to the developing situated learning theory by shedding light on how incremental and more radical changes in practice emerge. The findings should be useful to policy-makers who seek to support universities to build capability for knowledge transfer.


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  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Theses

Qualification level

  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • phd


  • eng


HESA id: 0611620019431


University of Sussex

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