Working as a PhD student, a core goal of mine is to develop the right skill set that would allow me to create useful knowledge. Such knowledge that would be applied by practitioners to solve real world problems. This is why, when I came across an advert for a new intrapreneurship initiative, IKEEP (Intrapreneurial Knowledge Exchange Enterprise Pathway) with SETsquared, offering students the opportunity to work as research consultants to solve a real world entrepreneurial problems, I quickly sent in my application. In my eyes, this was the opportunity to understand how to make research impactful.
What is IKEEP? The IKEEP programme involves the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter and Surrey and is part funded by the Office for Students. IKEEP connects interdisciplinary and multi-institutional student teams with regional organisations to enable high quality knowledge exchange. The programme is designed for students to engage with industry on knowledge exchange projects as business advisors, developing business model solutions and market awareness whilst enhancing student’s skills as intrapreneurs/change makers and future employees. Businesses are matched with teams of (3) proactive students to tackle innovative project briefs through placements.
Overall, working as a research consultant for those four weeks turned out as I expected, a really valuable experience and I am so grateful to have had it and to be able to relate it to my work going forward. It was a great opportunity, firstly, for being able to work on a fascinating entrepreneurial problem with Growth Division, an enthusiastic start-up company. Secondly, it was a pleasure to work creatively with an interdisciplinary team, with two other students to create a useful research output.
During my experience with IKEEP I did come across a particular challenge, that on reflection has provided me with valuable and useful insights for creating useful knowledge. The big challenge we faced was expressing how the relevant literature we identified can be used by the start-up company to address their entrepreneurial problems. This challenge may well have been due to the start-up company's lack of technical understanding, or the research teams inability to communicate complex ideas, but what played an important role in this challenge was the disconnect of the literature to the situated practice of practitioners.
Having made use of popular studies of Organisations and Management, I found it difficult to understand how concepts can be made useful for the entrepreneur. I found there was a disconnect between the everyday decision making perspective of the entrepreneur and the higher level phenomenon's that were explained in the literature. This was frustrating as I knew the literature had the potential to be useful, but I wasn't sure in which way it could be effectively applied by the entrepreneur.
Seeing this challenge first hand, has made me think of how I can apply this to my work as an AAPS-CDT student going forward. At the CDT, we are taught the necessary transdisciplinary skills to address the complex challenges that the Automotive industry is currently facing and is expected to face in the future. These industry challenges are predominately faced by Automotive practitioners and as a researcher who wishes to address these industry challenges, I must therefore create research that is both relevant to the scholarly community and to the practitioner. So as you can see, this disconnect between academic research and the practitioner is dangerous, with implications for both scientific discourse and society at large.
To begin to address this issue as a sole researcher, I plan to identify research questions that make use of the existing theoretical literature whilst also being relevant to the situated practices of the practitioner of interest. However, to begin to address this issue as a scholarly community, which to me is a necessity if we are to address the grand societal challenges that we currently face, scholars must begin to see the value of integrating the perspectives of practitioners into their theoretical frameworks and to hold each other accountable to creating relevant research.
For a more detailed theoretical unpacking of this issue, good resources to read include:
- Dimov, D., Schaefer, R. and Pistrui, J., 2020. Look who is talking… and who is listening: Finding an integrative “we” voice in entrepreneurial scholarship. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, p.1042258720914507.
- Berglund, H., Dimov, D. and Wennberg, K., 2018. Beyond bridging rigor and relevance: the three-body problem in entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing Insights, 9(1), pp.87-91.
Overall, the IKEEP programme was really interesting and I would definitely recommend it to others. SETsquared had put in a tremendous amount of work to develop the pilot and to support its participants along the way, which was greatly appreciated by myself and fellow team members. I am also thankful to Growth Division who had provided us with such a fascinating entrepreneurial problem, a supportive environment and such enthusiasm throughout the experience, allowing us to see our research and intrapreneurial exploration through. I look forward to taking this experience and it's insights and applying them to the rest of my MRes year and with my PhD.