The Meaning of Social Interaction within Open Innovation Projects in Academic Context

Vehmas, Kati
January 2010
Proceedings of the International Conference on Intellectual Capi;2010, p644
Conference Proceeding
Although university-company collaboration projects have increased considerably in the last years, the significance behind concrete outcomes is still unrecognized especially in the area of humanities, for example design. These collaboration projects combine research, technology and innovation and are a mode of open innovation. This paper considers the university-company collaboration projects in the open innovation context. This study is constructed from the point of view of the collaborating companies; it is empirical and qualitative. The study examines the practices of participation analyzing how the effectiveness of the projects is perceived in the collaboration design research projects. The study is based on semi-structured interviews with eight informants. The informants are experts of research and design activities as well as open innovation projects. The hypothesis is that in the context of research and design and particularly academic design research, effectiveness lays outside the ordinary evaluation indicators. Therefore the university-company -collaboration may appear modest and ineffective. The study focuses on the company perspective using qualitative empirical material. As the university-company -collaboration projects are a significant platform for open innovation and multidisciplinary research at present, the outcomes of this study may be useful for universities, financiers and companies alike. The outcomes construct new knowledge about the particular effectiveness of the academic research & design projects. From the perspective of constructivist epistemology, knowledge is constructed through social interaction and the findings represent an interpretation of the researcher. The study applies a process of data-driven content analysis, which includes a stage of open coding, two levels of axial coding and after these conceptualizing. The findings indicate that contrary to the general assumptions companies do not consider concrete results as the most important outcomes of the university collaboration projects. Instead the foundation of the effective collaboration lies on multidisciplinary nature of the projects, uncertainty of action and dynamic participation in the process. Social interaction can be seen as a form of effectiveness, which is not recognized and defined yet in the open innovation project context. This paper concentrates on the meaning of social interaction in the open innovation projects. The study suggests that although constructed knowledge is conceived as a result of the projects, learning and developing knowing in practice are important aspects in the effectiveness of collaboration as well. In addition, the classical organization of a project is too formal for open innovation projects. Instead it seems that the form of a temporary organization is more natural in this context and enables participation andsocial interaction. University-company -collaboration in the field of design research illustrates particular effectiveness, which grows from the social interaction in the crossroads of different cultures of action. The study points out, that companies see effectiveness strongly associated with active participation, which the form of a temporary organization facilitates naturally.


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