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Life Science Boundary Spanners and Their Role in Exchange Processes with Academia
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business.
2009 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Innovation and entrepreneurship are recognized by many scholars as two of the key factors in company, regional and ultimately national growth. Up until now scholars have focused on macro level research leading to theories such as different innovation systems which explain how society through legislation and other incentives can facilitate the collaboration process between e.g. industry and academy leading to innovation. Despite this interest in the innovation process little effort has been made to elucidate how collaboration and innovation occurs from an individual perspective. This process involves individuals that interact in a knowledge exchange process.

Boundary spanners have been identified as facilitators and drivers of innovative processes between organizations. Their extensive networks enable them to distinguish collaboration opportunities and win-win situations with outside partners. In most industries boundary spanners are quite uncommon but within the life science sector many employees are potential boundary spanners since they often have an academic background and thus a good network with a major collaboration partner. We decided to look into the life science industry in order to investigate the exchange process in innovation collaborations and the role of academic background among boundary spanners. The research question that has guided this thesis was set to;

what prominent exchange customs exist among these boundary spanners and what does the background of these individuals have for these exchanges?

To be able to answer our research question and fulfill our aim we have made a qualitative hermeneutical study. By using a pending approach between deduction and induction we have continuously created understanding during the process of our theoretical and empirical generation. By performing five in-depth interviews with representatives from three different life science organizations we investigated how collaboration processes with academia are built and what role academic background can have for the boundary spanners involved.

From our empirical findings we derived answers to meet our aim;"identify prominent exchange customs among boundary spanners in innovation processes between academic and industry partners."

Exchange customs were dependent on foremost networking procedures or procedures indirectly dependent in networks. The actions of searching, screening and signalling were found to be central in the innovation process and for exchange customs. Furthermore we answered two set of sub-purposes;(i) what role does academic background have for the development of exchange customs and procedures pursued by boundary spanners in industry?

and(ii) how can background knowledge of academia contribute to or mitigate exchanges between boundary spanners in industry and academia?

The role of academic background was found to contribute significantly to all network dependent activities such as the above mentioned exchange customs. Moreover, we identified the process of academic self contact, i.e. when academia approaches industry with ideas, which could be a direct effect from signalling processes or personal networks. Background knowledge about academia affects exchange customs since it creates a better understanding of the academic partners' needs.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. , 60 p.
Keyword [en]
boundary spanner, innovation, life science, network, exchange processes, collaboration
National Category
Business Administration
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-24545OAI: diva2:226667
Available from: 2009-07-03 Created: 2009-07-03 Last updated: 2009-07-03Bibliographically approved

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Nilsson, Stefan KristofferWidding, Peter
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