2017-Hsing-fen Lee

Innovation Collaboration Between Knowledge-Intensive Business Services Firms and Universities

Dr Hsing-fen Lee, Middlesex University Business School, Middlesex University London

Co-Investigator: Prof Marcela Miozzo, King’s Business School, King’s College London


Abstract: Based on an original survey of academics about their relations with knowledge-intensive business services (KIBS) firms, the project adopts a configurational perspective, using a fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis, to assess how different combinations of proximities are relevant to such university-industry relations. We identify three types of proximities: cognitive proximity (shared technical knowledge), social proximity (inter-personal relationships or trust) and organisational proximity (formal agreement). We provide an integrated view about how KIBS firms and academics interact with each other when they act as knowledge providers or knowledge recipients, and highlight the combinations and interdependencies of different types of proximities that are conducive to such relations. We explore two types of relations between KIBS and universities: research collaboration and the setting up of academic spin-offs. When academics act as knowledge providers in research collaboration with KIBS firms, cognitive proximity is a key driver of these relations. Social proximity can also be conducive to such relations, but it is bundled with organisational proximity. Moreover, cognitive and social proximity help the conversion of the explicit formal and analytical knowledge generated in these relations. In contrast, when KIBS firms act as knowledge providers in the setting up of academic spin-offs, organisational proximity is more important. Although social proximity and cognitive proximity are absent in the relations, to convert consultant’s tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge (or “expert direction”) for academic entrepreneurs to act on, the simultaneous presence of social and cognitive proximity, in addition to organisational proximity, is required.