The Knowledge Exchange Paradox

Knowledge exchange programmes are usually based on research and innovation. It could be generalised that Knowledge Exchange projects have two main aims:

• Find practical application for new academic-generated knowledge.
• Identify industry needs in order to inspire new academic research and courses.

It is common for this kind of projects to take a very open approach at the beginning. In design jargon this is called fuzzy-front-end: Initially the outcome is not defined but it will be built upon the findings made during the research.

However, often companies (specially the small ones) don’t have the time or resources to spend on undefined projects. When approaching industry, “knowledge brokers” need to have clear objectives and a strong offer of skills, ideas, collaborative projects, etc.

Here it is the Knowledge Exchange Paradox:
Which came first, the knowledge or practice?

How can practical applications be proposed when finding those is the aim of the project?

Well this is the first challenge for the “knowledge brokers”. The academic approach to this is known as “research through practice”. Knowledge is generated by actively doing rather than by theoretical studies. However in the context of industry this approach entails a risk that not every company is willing or able to take.

Therefore the key is in finding a balance between both, what is known and what is sought. It may seem easy, but it actually requires a deep understanding of the industry you are working with and a thorough risk evaluation.

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