Creating and Managing EU Funded Research Networks: An Exploratory Case
Keywords:research networks, structural embeddedness, network theory, case study
The collaborative European funded research and development landscape drives competitiveness among innovative organisations. Recently it has seen the rise of public private partnerships significantly impacting the dynamics of these networks. Thus, the complexity of managing research networks has intensified with the increased diversity of research network members. Additionally, the emergence of the academic entrepreneur has augmented the focus of educational institutions to include innovation and building start-up organisations. The impact of research is scalable if an optimum research network is created and managed effectively. This paper investigates network embeddedness; the nature of relationships, links and nodes within a research network, specifically their structure, configuration and quality. The contribution of this paper extends our understanding for establishing and maintaining effective collaborative research networks. The effects of network embeddedness are recognized in the literature as pertinent to innovation and the economy. Network theory literature claims that networks are essential to innovative clusters such as Silicon valley and innovation in high tech industries. The concept of embeddedness is what differentiates network theory from economic theory. This study adopts a qualitative approach and uncovers some of the challenges of multi-disciplinary research through case study insights. One challenge is competition between network members over ownership and sharing of data. The contribution of this paper recommends the establishment of scaffolding to accommodate cooperation in research networks, role appointment, and addressing contextual complexities early to avoid problem cultivation. Furthermore, it suggests recommendations in relation to network formation, incubation and operations. The network capability is enhanced by the recognition of network theory, open innovation and social exchange with the understanding that the network structure has an impact on innovation and social exchange in research networks and subsequently on research output. The research concludes that the success of collaborative research is reliant upon establishing a common language and understanding between network members to realise their research objectives.
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