Capability Emergence and R&D in Professional Services

Turbine by Jan Chlebik (380 x 200)

We surveyed R&D project managers and directors to understand knowledge transfer

Theme: Open and Distributed Innovation

Dates: 2009-2013

Research Team: Professor Ammon Salter, Paola Criscuolo, Thorsten Grohsjean

This project sought to develop new knowledge about how investments in R&D by professional services can be managed and assessed in terms of their contribution to business performance. Although the difference between R&D in professional services and manufacturing firms is recognised, we still know little about R&D in these environments: how it is organised; the types of projects selected; the nature of the outputs; and what impact these projects have on subsequent business performance. The goal of this research project was to investigate these questions by analysing the R&D portfolio at Arup.

This project analysed Arup’s unique company-wide database of over 10 years of investment in R&D; and had two practical goals:

  1. To harness information held in the database to explore the impact of R&D efforts on subsequent projects and overall business performance
  2. To develop a new range of metrics for real time monitoring and analysis of the effectiveness, value and alignment of the R&D portfolios in professional service firms.

Project Outputs

Practitioner Dissemination: We administered a survey of R&D project managers and directors to understand how knowledge is transferred and the strategies used to convince internal and external stakeholders about project value.  We also asked about the impact of the project on individuals, groups and the firm. Results from this survey were presented to the Board of Directors and have been adopted in redesigning the firms’ R&D processes. This led to the new visualisation software for displaying the collaborative network of researchers and the development of new R&D impact assessment tool.

Academic Dissemination: Presentations were given at numerous workshops and seminars and a paper was submitted to a leading journal. Work has already been presented at DRUID (summer and winter) and Academy of Management (AoM) conferences during the lifespan of the ISC, as well as appearing in the AoM Best Paper Proceedings at the August 2013 conference. Our research data also remains a unique and powerful dataset for understanding the organisation and value of R&D in professional service firms.

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