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Track 10.4 - Transfer from research to industry and society: the role of the fuzzy front end in scientific organisations

Luise FISCHER, PhD, Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy, Leipzig
Anna POHLE, MSc, Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy, Leipzig; TU Berlin

Track's Contacts : 


Despite the extensive research activities in industrial countries, exploitation of research results remains unsatisfactory. Yet, scientific commercialisation or innovation is an important – but often underused – force for the respective national economies as well as the global market. Studies have shown that particularly the early phase of innovation – the fuzzy front end – is key in managing successful innovations in companies. Yet, this transition phase from science into innovation is understudied in the field of academic research. We therefore offer a paper track that places focus on understanding the fuzzy front end and the related mechanisms that trigger or hinder the transfer of scientific knowledge into innovation both on the level of individuals and organisations within and across countries.

Research organisations still struggle to commercialize their technologies. The transition between (basic) research and the commercialization of research often fails. This phenomenon is called the ‘Valley of death’ and is known as the phase where potential inventions and discoveries go to die. In the context of research organisations it is also called the ‘research valley of death’ or the ‘translation gap’ and focusses on challenges of research organisations in this phase. In contrast to the valley of death (VoD) within the company context, universities face the aggravating factor that the transition of knowledge and technologies happens between different organisations: from research to industry. The different perspectives and intentions of research organisations and companies hamper the transition. Strategies to bridge the research VoD become increasingly important. We argue that research organisation would benefit from approaches which intervene during the idea creation – the so called fuzzy front end (FFE) of innovation. The FFE is defined as the early phase of innovation that concerned with finding ideas and teams. The successful management of the FFE can bridge the VoD – also for research institutions.

We thus propose that universities and research (technology) organisations would benefit from a better understanding and management of the FFE. We suggest that studying the characteristics, role and potentials of scientific transfer mechanisms would benefit the exploitation of scientific research results. More particularly, the track welcomes papers that examine new tools, methods and strategies that ease the transition from research into society. We would like to invite contributions that inquire the following areas:
(1) What new forms of R&D management practices and/or transfer mechanisms are needed in research organisations to help researchers apply their knowledge to real-life situations and to support them enter into commercialisation agreements for their findings? How can the fuzzy front end contribute?
(2) What role should universities and academic research play in order to bridge the areas of research, industry and society?