What is Valorisation?

To start our discussions at the onset of the project, we began by exploring what valorisation is. Here are some of our thoughts and findings...

In the most general terms, valorisation refers to capturing value from science through making scientific insights available and useable to industry and or society.  Traditionally, there has been an emphasis on the capture of economic value by universities through the creation of (commercial) spin-offs of granting licenses to the utilization of patents. From this perspective, valorization and commercialization are (almost) synonymous. While not limited to these domains by definition, in practice, such a view on valorization implied a strong emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics / Medical sciences).  

  What can help us when we are looking at valorisation projects/cases?

  • For this project, valorisation can be either social, legal or economic.  
  • Look for intention! Valorisation processes should be organized, motivated and intended (no matter at which moment of the process). A good way of exploring this is to check if the project had planned goals, intended achievements and impacts. 
  • Qualitative approach: qualitative indicators can be as valuable as quantitative. Pay attention to the whole story instead of just the results of a project. 
  • Storytelling above impacts: success can be difficult to measure and to be defined. Instead of looking at success as a single part of the project that often comes at the end of it, try to analyze outputs, effects and impacts all together during different stages of a project. Some valorisation cases might use one type of indicative instead of other. It is our role to analyze the whole scenario, interpret the stories in order to pinpoint success. 

However, in the past decade, a broader view on valorization has taken hold. Notably, the emphasis has shifted much more towards the creation of impact through the use of research findings from all domains. Some scholars such Emanuela Reale (2018) categorize these impacts as scientific, social and political. Likewise, the Innovation Exchange Amsterdam (2014) differentiates between hard and soft impacts, that could be also translated as economic and soci(et)al impact. With this shift in focus on different types of impact have also come new perspectives on the range and nature of valorization activities. Whereas spin-off creation and licensing are activities that typically take place at the end of a research process and can be seen as a form of transfer of knowledge from the university to the external environment, it is now generally believed that valorization is a continuous process that runs parallel to and is extensively intertwined with the actual research process, while knowledge exchange and co-creation with external partners become more dominant paradigms.

Following this notion, for instance, Wakkee, van der Sijde and Sharp (2016) argued that valorization consists both of a variety of science-society interactions as well as of the creation and exploitation of marketable academic products and services. Furthermore, stakeholders have increasingly become aware of the involvement of a variety of scientific disciplines: Valorization is not just about STEM; Social Science, Humanities and the Arts (SSH(A)) are equally relevant origins of Valorization. Likewise, applications are not limited to industry; governments, NGO’s, the cultural and civic sector are equally relevant beneficiaries of and co-creators in valorization. 

So what does this mean for REVALORISE+? We propose to embrace valorisation diversity and plurality along the lines described above, rather than adopting a strict definition. As valorisation is in its very nature a high risk activity, it cannot be identified in terms of its actual outcomes or impacts but should rather be recognized in terms of its intentions. Hence, we suggest to include all purposefully initiated activities by scholars, aimed at making research findings available and useable for non-academic actors in order to create significant, measurable or observable impact beyond the academic context (thus excluding diploma oriented teaching and publication driven research).  

Even though research is increasingly multidisciplinary in nature and may involve scholars from a variety of SSH(A) and STEM domains, given the focus of REVALORISE+, we limit these to activities where a scholar from an SSH(A) domain is in the lead. Also, we suggest to only include those activities in which the scholar’s institution has an active role. Hence, personal (consultancy) practices set up by scholars as a side line, in which the university has no (legal or financial) stake1 are outside the scope of this project.    

However, in order to reach the goals of this research, there are some elements in valorisation’s literature that become more important for us to explore. We are, therefore, not choosing a single definition of valorisation for this project but embracing different approaches regarding valorisation that can aid us to study and better understand it’s characteristics when connected to SSH valorisation cases. 

Do you agree disagree with our approach? We would love to hear your thoughts. Join in the discussion on our Linkedin Group.

PLUS E-zine

Issue #5

In this issue of PLUS magazine, we put an emphasis on making Social Sciences and Humanities researchers visible and invite them to showcase their research findings with the wider academic and industry. It also takes a look back at EU Knowledge Valorisation Week.