Knowledge Management Research & Practice: Unpacking the “Black Box”

Contribute to our special issue on University-Industry Knowledge Transfer: Unpacking the “Black Box”

Nowadays, the greater openness of globalization in access to research data and new forms of funding, such as crowd funding for research, are changing the way institutions foster the knowledge transfer (KT) from universities to society (e. g. OECD, 2013). The need to share knowledge between university and industry has become gradually obvious in recent years. Over time, research institutions were perceived as a source of new ideas and industry offered a natural path to maximize the use of these ideas (EC, 2007). KT refers in a broader sense to the multiple ways in which knowledge from universities (and public research institutions) can be exploited by industry in order to create economic, social value and competitiveness (Ferreira et al, 2013). At the same time, it has become clear that universities need to play a more dynamic role in the industry relationship in order to maximize the use of research results. This new role (commonly called as third mission) requires specialized staff to identify and manage knowledge resources with business potential (EC, 2007).

Patents, licenses and spin-offs are undoubtedly important channels for commercializing of research, but other channels such as collaborative research (e.g. public-private partnerships, university-industry cooperation), mobility of students and faculty seem to evidence an increasing relevance (Hermans & Castiaux, 2017). Entrepreneurship education has emerged as a motivation to promote KT. Licensing and technology transfer offices (TTOs) are also evolving in search of more effective operational models. Many universities have pursued to change TTOs, creating new models and exploring new approaches to intellectual property ownership.

Initiatives to increase KT have become a complex, multifaceted, multi-actor and multi-level endeavour. Due to policy makers’ recognition of the broader channels resulting from research beyond the patent-license-idea model, KT policies have expanded and are often combined with university, economic, industrial, and regional policies to enable a systematic impact and broader synergies. New transfer initiatives have not only become institutionalized by governments, but also by public research organizations. As consequences of increased university autonomy and a changing global and local environment, institutions themselves are reforming and experimenting with initiatives that reflect each institution’s legislative, financial and cultural context.

Relationship between University – Industry (U-I) can be as part of the more general open innovation framework. Universities are an important external source of innovations for business (Hanel & St-Pierre, 2006). Firm size and scientific excellence also matter, large firms innovate more openly than small firms and are more likely to cooperate with university or government institutions on innovation (OECD, 2008).

Moreover, dealing in complex environments, implying the application of continuously changing ‘spots’ of knowledge, assumes that firms do not have this knowledge within their borders, which requires strong connections with players and organizations outside these limits (Anand et al, 2002). Firms pursue universities knowledge for a variety of reasons (e.g. OECD, 2013) and there are different ways for firms to directly access university knowledge (e.g. licensing, collaborative research partnerships, contract research, etc.). In addition to firms, there are also benefits and costs that arise for academic partners. Governments offer incentives for business to engage in alliances and cooperative research efforts. Due to the growing complexity of technologies, the formation of strategic university-industry-government R&D consortia has intensified in recent years.

These new trends open new “windows of opportunity” for universities, as potential partners for firms (and industry). Greater collaboration in U-I relations can transform into greater economic development, either through instruments capable of generating technological and knowledge spillovers (Ferreira et al, 2017) to accurate market failures in the field of innovation and to obtain a superior return on R&D investments or able of enhancing the emergence of a greater number of start-ups, the increase in the number of patents and licenses, joint R&D projects (Cohen et al, 2002), or joint scientific publications. Large differences arise in the way KT takes place in diverse countries and diverse universities (Polt et al, 2001; Ferreira et al, 2013). Research that enhances insight in the properties and performance of KT in different countries, regions, industries, and universities can help policymakers to enhance their policy regarding KT, and by doing this they can enhance economic growth.

This Special Issue (SI) aims to contribute to the debate on U-I KT and on the changing organization of knowledge creation (and co-creation) activities. Furthermore, it attempts to elucidate the complex nature of this subject combine to offer a wide range of interesting questions and claim a multiplicity of research methodologies in this area. Relevant areas include, but are not limited to the following research questions?

  • How effective are universities and research institutions in exploiting and commercializing their research?
  • How different are the attitudes of universities and firms towards knowledge spillovers and technology transfer?
  • What are the most widespread forms of collaboration and KR channels between university – industry interactions?
  • What are the benefits, impacts and/or obstacles to U–I collaboration?
  • What university scientists think about cooperation with private enterprises?
  • What kind of internal context facilitates the institutionalization of KT activities between industry and university research centers?
  • How KT mechanisms interweave with one another? What follows what in U-I interactions?

Submission instructions

Important Dates:

  • Deadline to submit papers for the SI: 30th September 2018
  • First review round by 30th November 2018
  • Second review round by 27 February 2019
  • Planned Publication:  Summer 2019

Submission procedures:

Manuscripts should be original, unpublished, and not currently under consideration for publication elsewhere. All submission must follow the instructions to authors that can be found on the journal homepage:

Other inquiries should be sent directly to the Guest Editors, Professor João J: Ferreira ( and Elias G. Carayannis ( clearly indicating in the subject “Special issue in Knowledge Management Research & Practice”.