What’s the skinny on your local science park?

Local knowledge networks can have a significant impact on the innovative capacity of firms in the area. The examples of Silicon Valley, “Silicon Fen” (the hub of companies in and around Cambridge, UK) and many others have highlighted this point several times.

A new study published in the International Journal of Technology Management suggests that the “science parks” that are a common feature of such hubs have many benefits. These benefits offer synergies that assist the development of companies and ultimately the success of their products and services and their bottom-line profitability. There are countless examples of internationally renowned companies that emerged initially as small startups with low-key premises on a science park.

Among those benefits, explain Isabel Díez-Vial and Ángeles Montoro-Sánchez of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain, are shared resources, machinery and other facilities, testing laboratories, and an overarching perception of legitimacy. Moreover, it is the flux of well-educated, innovative and motivated people who manage and work for these companies that contributes enormously to the effect. Science park companies that develop from startup and are still in business after three years are among the greatest beneficiaries of the science park setup. By virtue of their location and assuming they are outward looking, they will inevitably benefit from taking part in the local network and gain greater innovation due to the knowledge provided by others. To benefit the most they are obliged to invest time and effort in the development of new links between companies and with academia and to increase centrality and strengthen relationships within the hub.

However, the study also shows something of a downside to the science park culture after this initial boost to residents. Díez-Vial and Montoro-Sánchez have found that as companies get older and as a consequence spend longer in a given location whether or not they upgrade to bigger premises on the science park or extend their buildings, the benefits decline as the years go by. It is therefore important for new companies and entrepreneurs heading for the science park to recognise the initial buzz may well fade as their company matures.

“Science parks have been increasingly considered as a nurturing environment for business start-ups and lead to the development of growth-oriented firms,” the team reports. That said, now is the time to investigate how the pros and cons affect companies, both young and old, with a view to providing entrepreneurs and company managers with a clearer perspective on whether they will be better off in or out of the science park.

Díez-Vial, I. and Montoro-Sánchez, Á. (2017) ‘From incubation to maturity inside parks: the evolution of local knowledge networks‘, Int. J. Technology Management, Vol. 73, Nos. 1/2/3, pp.132-150.

Knowledge boost for pharma industry

The pharmaceutical industry has created value primarily by generating, and assembling information into knowledge applicable to human health,” explains Elham Elshafie Mohamed of the Business School at King Saud University in Riyadh. “Therefore, it is critical to improving R&D productivity and reduce product cycle time.” Critical to successful knowledge management in this context is to capture internal knowledge and information in parallel with assimilation from external sources, she suggests. “Effective knowledge management can provide very significant and measurable advantages for enhancing the pharmaceutical innovation,” says Mohamed.

Mohamed has homed in on several important advantages of the adoption of knowledge management techniques in pharmaceutical industry innovation:

  1. The use of KM can lead to more rapid regulatory approval of new drugs
  2. It facilitates fast sharing and distributing knowledge between development and manufacturing
  3. It overcomes the problem of limited time to meet demand after start-up
  4. It offers greater flexibility in lowering the cost of manufacturing changes compared with other approaches.
  5. It increases the predictability and reliability of manufacturing output.
  6. It leads to reduced batch failure, final testing, and so reduces expenses
  7. It improves R&D productivity and reduces overall cost cycle time

Mohamed’s conclusions are based on an extensive, systematic review of the business research literature in this field. Her detailed conclusions offer researchers and practitioners guidance in understanding how a pharmaceutical company can benefit from building and sustaining innovation through knowledge management.

Elshafie, E.M. (2016) ‘Pharmaceutical Knowledge Management: why does pharmaceutical industry need knowledge management?’ Int. J. Knowledge Management Studies, Vol. 7, Nos. 3/4, pp.288–304

Research Picks March 2017

Take a brake

Researchers in China have investigated one of the oldest annoyances associated with driving a car – brake squeal. Where research have investigated this phenomenon since the 1930s with no real sign of a cure for the howling that sometimes occurs as brake pads clamp around a brake disk, the team has looked at how the shape of the brake pads can affect the oscillation frequency. The team has demonstrated that “slotting” of brake pads often offered as a solution does little to reduce the noise whereas changing the overall shape systematically could eventually lead to a new design that precludes the worrying howl. Of course, the next step will be rigours safety checks of any new designs and regulatory approval before car manufacturers are able to offer silent braking as an option.

Guan, D.H., Du, Y.C. and Wang, X.F. (2016) ‘Effect of pad shapes on high-frequency disc brake squeal’, Int. J. Vehicle Design, Vol. 72, No. 4, pp.354-371.

What is clean energy?

The term “clean energy” is bandied about by corporate marketers and politicians alike as well as environmental activists. Researchers in France have now asked what exactly we mean by this buzz phrase, which can have different connotations for different people. The team has analysed speeches made by President Obama over the last several years in which he comments on “clean energy” and compares those mentions with the phrase in the context of French language newspaper articles across Europe. Fundamentally, in English the adjective “clean” as it is used in “clean energy” tends to refer to the restriction of emissions and an attempt to limit air pollution and so might include solar and wind power as well as what many see as an oxymoron “clean coal”. In contrast, the French equivalent “énergie propre” is a more ambiguous phrase where “propre” entirely precludes the notion of “clean coal” or other high-carbon and thence polluting technologies regardless of whether or not the fuel is treated to reduce pollution or scrubbers are used to reduce carbon or noxious emissions in exhaust fumes.

La Corte, G. (2016) ‘What does ‘clean energy’ refer to?‘, Progress in Industrial Ecology – An International Journal, Vol. 10, Nos. 2/3, pp.117-138.

The rise of Android malware

Android is a common and well-known operating system on mobile computing devices, tablet PCs, smart phones, smart televisions and other internet-enabled equipment. As such, it is a significant target for those who write malicious software to exploit security loopholes in such operating systems, whether or not they have malicious or criminal intent in so doing. Researchers in India suggest that there are at least 6 million malware programs that can infect and afflict Android devices. The team has surveyed the various types of Android malware and have made a series of suggestions as to how the dozens of device manufacturers and hundreds of millions of users alike might protect themselves from malware.

Dayal, M. and Nagpal, B. (2016) ‘A compendious investigation of Android malware family‘, Int. J. Information Privacy, Security and Integrity, Vol. 2, No. 4, pp.330-352.

Throwing in the towel

Research from Bangladesh has investigated towel re-use in hotels, the perception of guests on this issue and the notion of sustainability. Hotel guests generally have positive perceptions regarding towel re-use assuming that fewer towels used during their stay, means less washing and so lower environmental impact. There are also benefits in terms of lower costs and perhaps even less back pain for hotel servicing staff. However, the perceptions were not universal, some hotel guests perhaps recognising that their flight or other transport to the hotel for their vacation or business trip significantly outweighed any environmental benefit of using the same towels for the duration of their stay.

Islam, M.M. (2016) ‘Perceptions of the hotel guests on the sustainability of towel re-use‘, Int. J. Hospitality and Event Management, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp.305-324.