Gates alumnus Franz Huber publishes research on personal networks and business success.
For researchers in technology clusters, a shared language matters more than being physically close to peers, according to a new study by a Gates alumnus.
Franz Huber’s study, published in the Regional Studies journal, focuses on research and development workers in the Cambridge information technology cluster.
It found that about two thirds of the most important contacts the researchers have are globally distributed and based outside Cambridge.
They are either friends or people who are working on similar technological problems to them.
However, the research showed that being physically close to other research and development workers enables them to share a more diverse range of knowledge than is available to researchers who are working remotely. This can be beneficial for coming up with new ideas and innovations.
Nevertheless, Huber concludes that sharing the same technical jargon is critical for effective communication. He says: “This implies that research and development management and policy needs to be sensitive towards a shared language as a pre-condition for personal knowledge relationships. This can mean investing time in establishing a shared language.”
He adds: “Networking initiatives in R&D management and cluster/innovation policy need to be potentially global in scope, because personal contacts outside of the Cluster can be important. Yet, the scope of local networking initiatives within Cambridge might be greatest for linking people who are different in terms of their knowledge, but still manage to establish a shared language through regular face-to-face contacts.”
Huber’s research builds on his PhD in Geography at Cambridge which focused on the role of personal networks on knowledge flows and regional economic development. He investigated how personal networks affect innovative firms and regional economic development.
His new research is linked to his ESRC-funded Research Fellowship at the Open University Business School. Huber  is examining knowledge transactions between the UK motorsport and the UK cleantech industries.
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