Knowledge Transfer - Industry, Academia and the Global Gift Market

Friedemann Schaber, Vicki Thomas

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


People often assume that design is an international visual process, understood by everyone involved. When it comes to the global market, however, allowances have to be made for cultural differences. It is often a learning process among the parties concerned: designer, manufacturer, buyer, and consumer. Knowledge is exchanged among all of them.

Knowledge transfer in the 1990s became a focus of management theory, as a way of stimulating and creating innovation, particularly in design and product development. The same decade saw the world shrinking because of modern communication technology and as business increasingly traded globally (Machlup, 1980; Naisbitt, 1982).

“Knowledge is defined as the meaningful links people make in their minds between information and its application in action in a specific setting. Linking knowledge to action is a useful way to differentiate it from information” (Dixon, 2000: p.13). One sector in which the transmission of knowledge is at the core of its business is higher education. Universities in the United Kingdom offer a range of design and business support services, supplementing the traditional domain of teaching and research. Higher education in the UK trains new blood for industry, a large proportion of which find design- related work both in the UK and abroad. There is a commitment to share research expertise with the business community, and most British universities provide bespoke solutions to industry. Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) is a government- sponsored program that helps businesses to improve competitiveness and productivity through the better use of the knowledge, technology, and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base. KTP was formerly known as the Teaching Company Scheme (Ktponline, 2007) and has been developing since being set up in 1975, when the scheme focused on engineering projects. From this, the UK government’s scheme has embraced the knowledge transfer approach, focused it on the university research sector, and widened its remit to cover most of UK business.

This paper sets out to explore some of the strengths and pitfalls of this academic-based knowledge transfer in the context of the global gift market, using case studies in the design and prototype development of a range of toys and seasonal items. Here the KTP scheme is not used for engineering-based products, but for products that are far more culturally specific. Universities have seen a growth in cultural studies, communications, and creative industries courses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-81
Number of pages13
JournalDesign Management Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jun 2010


  • Knowledge Transfer
  • Industry
  • Academia
  • Global gift market


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