crossrail imperial college

Crossrail – The Transport Innovation Challenge: Brokering Knowledge Within and Beyond a Megaproject

Principal Investigator: Professor David Gann

Researchers: Professor Andrew Davies (UCL), Dr Samuel MacAulay (University of Queensland)

Funder: Crossrail

Duration: April 2012 – March 2016

This project studied collaboration across internal mega-project boundaries. Organisations routinely collaborate across internal and external boundaries to capture and integrate the knowledge required for innovation. As with most organisations, the operational success and learning legacy of transport mega-projects depends on successfully meeting this innovation challenge. Building on the findings of our earlier research into innovation and systems integration (e.g. Terminal 5, London Olympics 2012), we used interviews and observational data collected from a mega-project in the transportation industry to help refine our understanding of how organisational mechanisms influence individual actions. This research:

  • Audited organisational processes that drive collaboration across internal mega-project boundaries and into the future.
  • Identified how such mechanisms actually influence the day-to-day behaviour of individuals trying to capture and integrate knowledge associated with specific innovations.
  • Compared our findings with prior research conducted across a number of industries to generate a best practice framework that can be used by our partner firm and other organisations seeking to facilitate successful collaborate across mega-project boundaries

At a more general level, this project was designed to contribute to theory on the knowledge integration process within organisations. The interdependence between organisational mechanisms and individual actions underpinning this process are underspecified in existing theory. Our study drew on theory and findings from social network research into brokerage to refine existing theoretical accounts of the knowledge integration process within the organisational science literature.

Key Research Questions

Using interviews with and observations of multiple subprojects within our focal firm, we:

  • Produced a report identifying the drivers underlying successful innovation integration within the firm
  • Developed a best practice framework for our firm and other organisations seeking to facilitate successful collaboration across megaproject boundaries
  • Contributed to organisational theory by highlighting how existing explanations of brokerage in social networks helps to explain the innovation integration process at the individual level within temporary organisations.

A major output of this project has been Imperial’s contribution to Crossrail’s innovation strategy, including acknowledging input from the research team and with a foreword by Professor Gann. To read more about this, please visit the webpage.

This project originated in the Innovation Studies Centre, a previous 10 year grant investigating the innovation process from knowledge creation to commercialisation. Please visit the original project page to find out more and to learn about our earlier related work on managing mega-projects at Heathrow Terminal Five and the London 2012 Olympic Park.


Work from this project is now published in the following: