Recognising “open innovation” in HEI-industry interaction for knowledge transfer and exchange

Johnston, Lorraine; Robinson, Sarah and Lockett, Nigel (2010). Recognising “open innovation” in HEI-industry interaction for knowledge transfer and exchange. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, 16(6) pp. 540–560.



Purpose – This paper aims to stimulate debate among academic and policymaking communities as to understanding the importance of social processes and open innovation contexts within existing models of knowledge transfer and exchange (KTE) between higher education institutions (HEIs) and industry.

Design/methodology/approach – This research was conducted through a number of case studies connected to UK HEIs and through extensive interviews with representatives of HEI, industry and policy makers over a two-year period.

Findings – The results confirm that social processes are often under-explored in collaborative HEI-industry settings. The study identified seven emerging themes which are important to HEI-industry relationships: the importance of network intermediaries; flexibility, openness and connectivity of network structures; encouraging network participation; building trust in relationships through mutual understanding; active network learning; strengthening cooperation through capacity building; and culture change.

Practical implications – This research raises implications for policymakers and practitioners engaged in developing KTE collaborative activities. The paper argues for greater attention to be placed upon the social processes that affect collaborative innovation and working. Policymaking in particular needs to take account of these processes as they are neither easy to establish nor sustain.

Originality/value – The paper contributes to the literature on HEI-industry interactions for enhanced KTE activity and partnership working which demonstrates value to wider scholarly and practitioner readership. In the context of “open innovation”, the paper argues in favour of greater attention to be paid to the social processes involved in engaging HEI academics with industry professionals. Moreover, the paper further contributes to wider perspectives on the importance of international HEI-industry research activities.

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