Commercializing University Innovations: A Sense-Making Perspective to Communicate Between Academics and Industry

Kyle Andrews, Robert MacIntosh, Rafal Sitko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
145 Downloads (Pure)


Technology transfer offices (TTOs) play a key role in helping universities commercialize research and distribute knowledge. Nonetheless, there remains an incomplete understanding of the communication, which takes place between academics, industry partners, and TTO staff. The aim of this article is to examine, with the use of sense-making theory, strategies used by TTO employees as they work with academics and industry partners to commercialize intellectual property. In order to achieve this aim, an ethnographic exploratory case study was undertaken at a university TTO. The collected information then became the basis for qualitative interviews with TTO staff from 13 universities in Scotland. The study contributes to the sense-making theory by explaining how, during the commercialization conversations, TTO employees can deliberately interrupt the sense-making process through 'dumbing down.' Our research introduces the TTO employee as a mediator and examines the role of the TTO staff in facilitating the sense-making process. The findings illustrate how someone who is not an expert in the field can add to the sense-making process. The study suggests that TTO employees intentionally engage in a 'dumbing down process' to make complicated conversations easy to understand.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)614-625
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Engineering Management
Early online date31 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Collaborations in technology management
  • Commercialization
  • communication
  • Companies
  • Industries
  • IP networks
  • knowledge management
  • Licenses
  • management of intellectual capital
  • Technological innovation
  • technology commercialization
  • Technology transfer
  • technology transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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