Translating three states of knowledge--discovery, invention, and innovation

Implement Sci. 2010 Feb 1:5:9. doi: 10.1186/1748-5908-5-9.


Background: Knowledge Translation (KT) has historically focused on the proper use of knowledge in healthcare delivery. A knowledge base has been created through empirical research and resides in scholarly literature. Some knowledge is amenable to direct application by stakeholders who are engaged during or after the research process, as shown by the Knowledge to Action (KTA) model. Other knowledge requires multiple transformations before achieving utility for end users. For example, conceptual knowledge generated through science or engineering may become embodied as a technology-based invention through development methods. The invention may then be integrated within an innovative device or service through production methods. To what extent is KT relevant to these transformations? How might the KTA model accommodate these additional development and production activities while preserving the KT concepts?

Discussion: Stakeholders adopt and use knowledge that has perceived utility, such as a solution to a problem. Achieving a technology-based solution involves three methods that generate knowledge in three states, analogous to the three classic states of matter. Research activity generates discoveries that are intangible and highly malleable like a gas; development activity transforms discoveries into inventions that are moderately tangible yet still malleable like a liquid; and production activity transforms inventions into innovations that are tangible and immutable like a solid. The paper demonstrates how the KTA model can accommodate all three types of activity and address all three states of knowledge. Linking the three activities in one model also illustrates the importance of engaging the relevant stakeholders prior to initiating any knowledge-related activities.

Summary: Science and engineering focused on technology-based devices or services change the state of knowledge through three successive activities. Achieving knowledge implementation requires methods that accommodate these three activities and knowledge states. Accomplishing beneficial societal impacts from technology-based knowledge involves the successful progression through all three activities, and the effective communication of each successive knowledge state to the relevant stakeholders. The KTA model appears suitable for structuring and linking these processes.