Disseminating Scientific Knowledge to Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
By Sarai Løkkegaard
In this thesis, I examine, develop and evaluate the dissemination of scientific knowledge between university and industry, specifically small and mediumsized enterprises (SMEs). The motivation for the research originates in the Danish science-society debate, which has increased over recent decades. While the traditional missions of universities are research and teaching, there has been a growing attention on the ‘third mission’, which covers universities’ responsibility to stimulate a greater awareness and exploitation of scientific knowledge outside academia. However, while getting scientific knowledge from universities to the outside world is commonly considered profitable, finding successful ways of how to do it remains a challenge. The thesis provides new perspectives on this matter.
Through a number of mainly explorative studies, the thesis examines, develops and evaluates how scientific knowledge can be disseminated to SMEs. The thesis explores the dissemination of existing scientific knowledge in the form of Pure data from VBN (Knowledge Base of Northern Jutland), which is the Research Information Management System of Aalborg University. Using existing scientific knowledge from VBN as a case requires scientific knowledge to be explicit, encoded and demonstrative. For this reason, the thesis focusses on the dissemination of scientific knowledge through generic pathways (e.g. published research, patents, research facilities, employed new graduates).
Understanding SMEs’ preferences for the dissemination process is a central part of the thesis’ contribution. The conditions of SMEs differ significantly from those of larger enterprises, for example because they have fewer employees and limited financial resources for in-house research and development. Because of this, SMEs can be said to have a greater need to access external knowledge. Working with a variety of SMEs to create mainly qualitative data, the thesis seeks to understand SMEs’ conditions and preferences related to (scientific) knowledge. The thesis further focusses on understanding what is required in order for SMEs to find scientific knowledge accessible, understandable, relevant and usable. These understandings form the basis for developing and evaluating an actual generic pathway that makes possible a concrete exploration of how existing scientific knowledge can be disseminated to SMEs.
By that, the thesis not only examines how scientific knowledge is disseminated at present; it also explores how it can be done in the future. The contributions of the thesis include:
- A Literature Study that analyses and categorises the known barriers and solutions to dissemination of scientific knowledge to enterprises in general and SMEs in particular.
- An analysis of SMEs’ situation related to (scientific) knowledge, which provides new and nuanced insights about the perspectives of SMEs and their preferences regarding external knowledge acquisition.
- The creation of communicative principles for the optimised dissemination of scientific knowledge to SMEs.
- An analysis of the characteristics and organisation of the specific type of scientific knowledge that exists in VBN.
- A development process that exemplifies and concretises how scientific knowledge can actually be disseminated to SMEs through generic pathways.
In total, the research conducted in this thesis strengthens the common knowledge on the field and contributes with several new and nuanced insights on the subject. By focussing particularly on (1) SMEs, (2) existing (explicit and encoded) scientific knowledge and (3) generic pathways, the thesis takes a unique standpoint and separates itself from existing research on ‘the dissemination of scientific knowledge’.