Year

1996

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Centre for Research Policy

Abstract

The commercialisation process through which industry uses technology from publicly-funded research laboratories, involves a laboratory and one or more companies establishing a commercialisation interface. This brings together the sometimes conflicting research and business cultures.

Although commercialisation is ultimately a social process, studies of commercialisation interfaces have often focused more on the contractual, administrative or economic structures set up to manage them, than on the social and intercultural dynamics that create and sustain them. So previous research has largely left unanswered the questions that drive this thesis:

* How does the social structure of the laboratory-company interface emerge and endure?

* What behaviour contributes to the interface's social effectiveness?

The study draws on theories on intergroup contact, trust, conflict, power, ethnic adaptation, organisational adaptation and symbolic representation, to identify dimensions of social behaviour likely to influence the status of the commercialisation interface. These dimensions provide an analytical framework for investigating what makes commercialisation interfaces effective. The framework is applied to analyse commercialisation case studies and to formulate a theoretical model which helps explain the social/intercultural basis of commercialisation.

The analysis reveals that different dimensions of behaviour influence the social effectiveness of interfaces not only to different degrees, but also in fundamentally different ways.

The impact on interface effectiveness of several influential dimensions of social behaviour was encouraged or reinforced by the contexts of the interfaces in the case studies: their historical, cultural context and/ or their contemporary, structural context. Other influential dimensions were largely unaffected by the interfaces' contexts. Behaviour's source of influence on interface effectiveness is therefore important.

The dimensions of social behaviour were found also to have different modes of influence on interface effectiveness. Some dimensions affected the way participants approached their forthcoming involvement in the interface (an 'individual ' mode of influence). Other dimensions had a 'collective' mode of influence; here the behaviour was tightly bound up with the collective activity of both partners and their representatives within the interface itself, as that small group set about its tasks.

The importance of these channels through which behaviour actually gains its influence on interface effectiveness suggests that the interpretation and management of social behaviour in commercialisation must focus on the interplay between behaviour's mode and source of influence. The thesis argues that this interaction is crucial in generating the interface's social/intercultural dynamics. The interface is very much the product of social adaptation: adaptation of individuals to social forces generated in the interface itself and elsewhere, and adaptation of the interface as a small group to cultural and other forces. The thesis shows that these processes of adaptation can readily be understood in terms of the interplay of behaviour's mode and source of influence.

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