Balancing diversity in innovation networks: trading zones in university-industry R&D collaboration
December 17, 2014 Editor 0
European Journal of Innovation Management, Volume 18, Issue 1, January 2015.
Purpose Although the potential of innovation networks that involve both university and industry actors is great variances in cultures, goals and knowledge poses significant challenges. To better understand management of such innovation networks, we investigate different strategies for balancing diversity. Design/methodology/approach In this multiple case study, we draw on network and trading zone theory to examine the strategies of four research centers that govern university-industry innovation networks. Findings We (1) provide empirically grounded descriptions of strategies for balancing diversity in innovation processes, (2) extend previous theorizations by suggesting two types of trading zones (transformative and performative), and, (3) identify four strategy configuration dimensions (means of knowledge trade, tie configuration, knowledge mobility mechanisms and types of trust). Research limitations/implications Further research is needed on transferability of results when e.g. cultural collaboration and communication patterns change, and, performance implications of different configurations. Our research provides conceptual tools for future research on the impact of different diversity strategies. Practical implications Our findings point to the importance of identifying desired types of innovation outcomes and designing the appropriate level of diversity. To implement the selected strategy, managers need to configure communication channels and strength of relationships, establish associated capacity for knowledge transfer and build appropriate levels of trust. Originality/value While extant research has provided a solid understanding of benefits from diversity in boundary spanning innovation processes, this paper outlines strategies for managing associated challenges.
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