To read this content please select one of the options below:

Balancing diversity in innovation networks: Trading zones in university-industry R&D collaboration

Johan Sandberg (Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden)
Jonny Holmström (Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden)
Nannette Napier (Georgia Gwinnett College, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
Per Levén (Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Article publication date: 12 January 2015




Although the potential of innovation networks that involve both university and industry actors is great variances in cultures, goals and knowledge poses significant challenges. To better understand management of such innovation networks, the authors investigate different strategies for balancing diversity. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


In this multiple case study, the authors draw on network and trading zone theory to examine the strategies of four research centers that govern university-industry innovation networks.


The authors provide empirically grounded descriptions of strategies for balancing diversity in innovation processes, extend previous theorizations by suggesting two types of trading zones (transformative and performative), and identify four strategy configuration dimensions (means of knowledge trade, tie configuration, knowledge mobility mechanisms and types of trust).

Research limitations/implications

Further research is needed on transferability of results when, e.g. cultural collaboration and communication patterns change, and performance implications of different configurations. The research provides conceptual tools for future research on the impact of different diversity strategies.

Practical implications

The findings point to the importance of identifying desired types of innovation outcomes and designing the appropriate level of diversity. To implement the selected strategy, managers need to configure communication channels and strength of relationships, establish associated capacity for knowledge transfer and build appropriate levels of trust.


While extant research has provided a solid understanding of benefits from diversity in boundary spanning innovation processes, this paper outlines strategies for managing associated challenges.



Sandberg, J., Holmström, J., Napier, N. and Levén, P. (2015), "Balancing diversity in innovation networks: Trading zones in university-industry R&D collaboration", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 44-69.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles