Innovation, Knowledge & Organisational Networks Research Unit

Innovation, Knowledge & Organisational Networks Research Unit

The Innovation, Knowledge and Organisational Networks research unit (IKON) was established in 1997 to advance understanding of the interactions between innovation, by applying theoretical perspectives from social science and organisation theory. 

Our members conduct empirical and theoretical studies of the social processes and networking practices entailed in innovation and how innovation processes are influenced by specific organisational and institutional contexts. We focus on the social aspects of innovation, knowledge management and interfirm relations, complementing the economic and technological approaches that dominate these fields. 

The group actively collaborates with other departments of the University, national and international institutions. Project partners or institution with whom we conducted joint research during the last REF cycle, include the WMG, University of Oxford, Kings’ College, Aston University, Newcastle University, and Bedfordshire University. We maintain active research collaborations with international universities in the USA (Bentley), Switzerland (USI Lugano), Norway (BI Oslo and UiO), France, (ESSEC), Ireland (U of Dublin), and the Netherlands (VU Amsterdam), Brazil (UFMG Belo Horizonte), and Australia (Monash). We are actively supporting the Partnership with Monash through a joint PhD supervision. 

We regularly apply for grants and conduct externally funded projects, organise academic and research events, and provide support to early career scholars. From 2004 to 2020, IKON ran the Knowledge and Innovation Network, a self-sustaining industry network which constituted an outlet for collaborative activities. 

Key research themes

  • Knowledge exploitation, integration and interactive innovation processes

  • Networking and innovation 

  • Knowledge management and learning in organisations and communities of practice 

  • Evidence generation and use 

  • Managing knowledge work 

  • Expertise development and transfer  

  • Practice and routine theory. 

Key current projects

  • Management insights for tackling grand challenges: the case of climate-related financial risks in the financial investment industry (Dittrich, UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, £1.1 million) 

  • Exploring Innovations in Transition to Adulthood (EXIT Study) (Currie, Swan, ESRC, £1.63 million) 

  • Improving evidence-based innovation in social care: A methodology for values alignment 2020/21 (Swan, NIHR, £118,000) 

  • Early stage equity investment practices in Angels network and start-up management - A preliminary study (Nicolini, WBS funded) 

  • The state of art and future directions of knowledge management: a global study. 

Key projects completed within the REF-2021 assessment period

  • Developing skills through learning in practice (Nicolini, ESRC, £85,980) 

  • Evidence in management decisions: Advancing knowledge utilisation in healthcare management (Nicolini, NIHR via KCL, £226,000)

  • Improving the capabilities of NHS organisations to use evidence: A process model (Swan, NIHR, £356,000) 

  • Networked innovation in the health sector (NIHS): Comparative evaluation of the role of collaborations for leadership in applied health research and care (CLAHRC). 

IKON Director: Professor Davide Nicolini. 

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