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Open Access Highly Accessed Debate

Need to Knowledge (NtK) Model: an evidence-based framework for generating technological innovations with socio-economic impacts

Jennifer L Flagg*, Joseph P Lane and Michelle M Lockett

Author Affiliations

Center for Assistive Technology, University at Buffalo (SUNY), 100 Sylvan Parkway, Suite 400, Amherst, NY, 14228, USA

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Implementation Science 2013, 8:21  doi:10.1186/1748-5908-8-21

Published: 15 February 2013

Abstract

Background

Traditional government policies suggest that upstream investment in scientific research is necessary and sufficient to generate technological innovations. The expected downstream beneficial socio-economic impacts are presumed to occur through non-government market mechanisms. However, there is little quantitative evidence for such a direct and formulaic relationship between public investment at the input end and marketplace benefits at the impact end. Instead, the literature demonstrates that the technological innovation process involves a complex interaction between multiple sectors, methods, and stakeholders.

Discussion

The authors theorize that accomplishing the full process of technological innovation in a deliberate and systematic manner requires an operational-level model encompassing three underlying methods, each designed to generate knowledge outputs in different states: scientific research generates conceptual discoveries; engineering development generates prototype inventions; and industrial production generates commercial innovations. Given the critical roles of engineering and business, the entire innovation process should continuously consider the practical requirements and constraints of the commercial marketplace.

The Need to Knowledge (NtK) Model encompasses the activities required to successfully generate innovations, along with associated strategies for effectively communicating knowledge outputs in all three states to the various stakeholders involved. It is intentionally grounded in evidence drawn from academic analysis to facilitate objective and quantitative scrutiny, and industry best practices to enable practical application.

Summary

The Need to Knowledge (NtK) Model offers a practical, market-oriented approach that avoids the gaps, constraints and inefficiencies inherent in undirected activities and disconnected sectors. The NtK Model is a means to realizing increased returns on public investments in those science and technology programs expressly intended to generate beneficial socio-economic impacts.

Keywords:
Knowledge translation; Technology transfer; Commercial transaction; Evidence-based; Technology-based; Scientific research; Engineering development; Industrial production; States of knowledge; Innovation