An Exploratory Study of Innovation Intermediation in IS Education
The importance of innovation to economies across the world has been widely documented and this has been particularly true in Irish terms in the development of a knowledge-based economy (SSTI, 2006). One of the ways of facilitating an innovation culture is through third level education and students taking innovation and entrepreneurship programmes or modules. Innovation education is a central part of third level education globally (O’Gorman and Fitzsimons, 2007; Streeter and Jacquette, 2004) and manifests itself in different undergraduate and postgraduate levels and across different disciplines, such as, ICT, Engineering and Food. There is clear evidence of significant innovation and entrepreneurship activity in Ireland (Cooney and Murray, 2008) and worldwide (World Economic Forum, 2009), yet there is limited research into the organisation or process roles of participants in this area and even less cross disciplinary comparative reflection.
The objective of this paper is to investigate the innovation intermediation role of IS student enterprise teams, identify the intermediation processes adopted, explore sources of innovation, examine the practice and effectiveness of the process and consider the comparative cross disciplinary implications in relation to the food sector. Innovation intermediation (Howell, 2006) is the theoretical sensitising lens that underpins this research study. This perspective is widely cited and has been applied to countless research areas, such as technology transfer, innovation and networks. Innovation intermediation can be viewed as organisational roles, such as bridge builders, technology brokering, surrogate ties and diffusion facilitation. It can also refer to a range of functions in innovation processes, such as scanning, knowledge creation, testing, validation and commercialisation. The innovation intermediation model is therefore an ideal device for articulating this comparative case study research.
The methodology adopted is a comparative case study of two separate innovation programmes, the MBS (Business Information Systems) and BSc in Food Business with historic longitudinal data collection. This qualitative study reflects on the experience of two innovation programmes, the level of analysis, that have been running separately, and in isolation, for between 8-12 years. These two programmes in the ICT and Food sectors have resulted in the creation of on average 20 student business plans per annum. Data sources include: business plans, learning journals, cross case comparisons and interviews with students. The qualitative computer package NVivo was used to analyse the data.
This exploratory study revealed that the university programmes had played an important role in innovation intermediation and had fostered a culture of innovation within the students. In addition, the innovation contributed to business start-ups, development of IP and patents. Students’ endeavour as intermediaries has also added value to local companies by enhancing existing, or developing, new products or services.
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