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Common challenges in Knowledge Asset exploitation in the public sector and top tips

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Joanna Rodin, Deputy Director of Government Office for Technology Transfer, shares her thoughts from her panel discussion at GOTT's first conference.

I had the pleasure of chairing a panel session with Beth Parry from the Natural History Museum, Liz Kirby from Quantum Detectors Ltd. and formerly Director of Innovation at STFC and Marie Thirlwall from Ploughshare.

Our three panellists highlighted the amazing diversity in Knowledge Assets (KAs) that appear even across just their three public sector organisations. For example, the collection-based science that underpins so much of the work at the Natural History Museum, the innovations at STFC created to help answer big questions about the Universe and the new technologies that Ploughshare Innovations, a Ministry of Defence-owned company, sees on a day-to-day basis arising from their client base.

Clearly working with KAs arising from across the public sector does not come without its challenges, and the panel touched on a few of these during our discussion as well as some tips.

Challenge 1

How to prioritise different knowledge asset opportunities

With finite resources across teams, this came up as a common challenge. Some may be concerned with how to triage newly identified KAs that arise within their organisation, whilst others might just be starting their KA journeys and not know where to begin. GOTT’s Rose Book is a good place to start.

Challenge 2

Securing senior buy-in and empowering staff

Winning over colleagues and communicating the potential of Knowledge Assets to both support an organisation’s core objectives and generate wider impact was also discussed. Getting senior leadership behind the work is very important along with empowering those Knowledge Asset creators to champion their use. Appointing an organisational Senior Responsible Officer can really help.

Challenge 3

There will never be a one-size fits all solution

Given the diversity in structure and work of our many public sector organisations, there will never be a silver bullet or one way of doing things, but sharing experiences and seeing how others have made progress can be really valuable. GOTT runs a Knowledge Asset Network which facilitates the sharing of expertise and experience in KA management. This community is open to all in the public sector who are involved with or have an interest in KA management and exploitation. If you are interested in joining the network, get in touch with the team.

Tip 1

Get teams comfortable with IP and don’t underestimate know-how

Supporting colleagues to become more IP aware and tracking and documenting the unique know-how an organisation holds can lead to huge downstream gains in terms of finding areas of untapped potential. Know-how in particular can often be undervalued but frequently underpins other KAs and opportunities for them.

Tip 2

Don’t agonise over decisions too much

Not all decisions are irreversible and some only need to be ‘good enough’. Moving the dial, even in small increments, for a KA opportunity can help prove the scale of the opportunity for an organisation. Make progress where you can rather than trying to do everything at once.

Tip 3

Don’t get stuck in an echo chamber with your Knowledge Assets

It can be so easy to fall into the trap of self-validation of the potential of KA opportunities within teams. Networking both inside and outside government and sourcing ideas on how best to develop and deploy KAs can really help you to keep an open mind on how to deliver maximum impact from them.

Tip 4

Embrace the unknown

Innovating with KAs is often complex, uncertain, and iterative and can easily feel overwhelming at times. Further, not all projects with KAs we embark on will work out, and that is okay. We are all constantly learning from each other when it comes to generating further benefit from KAs, and that is what makes it such a fascinating and exciting area to be involved in.  Keeping an open mind and exploring routes for using KAs in new ways which deliver genuinely scalable and impactful solutions, even if not always the most practical way forward was also very much on the panel’s mind.

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