Given the urgency of current water challenges, public authorities, utilities and industry feel a strong need to use the available knowledge in an effective and efficient way. Water organisations need a partner to support them in translating this knowledge to their own practice and to the societal context. KWR assists in the search for solutions to contribute to valorisation, the process of creating value from knowledge. Since every player in the water sector is affected by these processes and related knowledge questions, collective research into joint knowledge development delivers great added value.
A partner for valorisation
Knowledge and innovation form the basis for good and successful water management. Water organisations are looking for ways to benefit more from research. New knowledge is increasingly being developed, exchanged and used in networks and collaborations between science, government and business. This development raises all sorts of questions within water organisations, for example: How can participation in a collaboration lead to the optimal use of the available knowledge? To jointly implement and transfer innovations to practice, organisations need to understand the processes, end-user expectations and everything else in between – that is, they need a partner to support them in joint knowledge development.
Organising knowledge co-production
The key to valorisation is in the interactions between researchers and knowledge users. For this reason knowledge co-production (‘co-makership’) is a guiding principle of the Joint Research Programme with the water utilities. We stimulate interactions and collaboration with our clients in the different phases of the research process, from the prioritisation of projects to the implementation of results. This approach fits in a global trend towards transdisciplinary research, a mode of knowledge production that crosses disciplinary boundaries and involves active contributions from practitioners (Brouwer et al. 2018). A topical question is how to organize effective co-makership during the phase of data collection and analysis: how can clients or other knowledge users be engaged in a productive way? A related challenge is how to collaborate productively with policy-makers, in order to optimize the relevance and impact of research results for public policies. To this end, we work with the concepts of communities-of-practice (CoPs) and a Knowledge-Action System as introduced by Muñoz-Erickson.
Evaluating and improving knowledge valorisation
To ensure a continuous learning process, advanced evaluation processes for valorisation are required. We actively contribute to the development of indicators and assessment tools for valorisation. Measuring the broader impacts of knowledge production and exchange is a challenging task, as they are multiple and heterogeneous, ranging from new products to more effective government policies, and improvements in public health or well-being. Moreover, the impacts typically occur after a substantial amount of time, and attributing causality is not straightforward since they are generally the result of various factors and influences. For this reason, we focus our efforts on process indicators that measure the presence and effectiveness of the mechanisms for valorisation. We use the model of the ‘valorisation cycle’ (see figure below), to conceptualise the different stages of knowledge production and implementation. Our evaluation strategy is to assess ‘productive interactions’ across the stages of this cycle. Productive interactions are defined as exchanges between researchers and stakeholders involved in achieving societal impacts, which become productive when stakeholders make efforts to use and apply research results to generate impacts.