Sense-making strategies : the role of intermediaries in university technology transfer environment
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The context of this research project is the field of university technology transfer. There is a growing body of literature that states discourse between academic and industry partners is problematic in nature. In order to investigate this, the theoretical lens of sensemaking was utilized to explore the field of technology transfer and to examine the strategies used to communicate between Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) (along with their staff members), academics, and industrial partners as they try to work together, along with understanding this commercialization process using sensemaking theory. Furthermore, the thesis seeks to further enhance knowledge of the commercialization process by improving communication strategies for those individuals and groups involved. In order to achieve this aim an ethnographic exploratory case study was undertaken at a university technology transfer office. The information that was gathered from the exploratory study became the basis for the interviews, which proceeded for the remainder of the data collection. The interview process included 16 interviews from 13 universities in Scotland. The findings of this study relate to sense-making theory by introducing the TTO employee as a mediator and examining the role of the TTO employee in facilitating the sense making process. The findings illustrate how someone who is not an expert in the field can add to the sense-making process even though they (the TTO employee) are not actually making sense, rather facilitating the discourse in such a way that sense can be made. This is the process of dumbing down the information. The findings contribute to the body of knowledge both theoretically and contextually and specifically contribute to sense-making theory by examining how the TTO employee deliberately stops the sensemaking process in order to make sense of the discourse that is being communicated by the other groups involved. The contextual findings relate to the university technology transfer industry by emphasizing who the TTOs work with, both internally within the university and externally outside of the university. The findings have shown that there seems to be very little awareness of the TTOs’ services in both the academic and industry communities. This is contradictory to the literature which is discussed in chapter 2 and chapter 5. Additionally, the findings place emphasis on a background problem pertaining to the problematic discourse between academics and industry, which could affect the potential outcome of a commercialization project.