Computer Laboratory

Technical reports

Radical innovation: crossing knowledge boundaries with interdisciplinary teams

Alan F. Blackwell, Lee Wilson, Alice Street, Charles Boulton, John Knell

November 2009, 124 pages


Interdisciplinary innovation arises from the positive effects that result when stepping across the social boundaries that we structure knowledge by. Those boundaries include academic disciplines, government departments, companies’ internal functions, companies and sectors, and the boundaries between these domains. In the knowledge economy, it is often the case that the right knowledge to solve a problem is in a different place to the problem itself, so interdisciplinary innovation is an essential tool for the future. There are also many problems today that need more than one kind of knowledge to solve them, so interdisciplinary innovation is also an essential tool for the challenging problems of today.

This report presents the results of an in-depth study into successful interdisciplinary innovation, focusing on the personal experiences of the people who achieve it. It is complementary to organisational research, and to research on the economic impact of innovation, but has primarily adopted perspectives and methods from other disciplines. Instead, this report has been developed by a team that is itself interdisciplinary, with a particular focus on anthropology, design research, and strategic policy. It also draws on reports from expert witnesses and invited commentators in many other fields.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Blackwell, Alan F. and Wilson, Lee and Street, Alice and
          	  Boulton, Charles and Knell, John},
  title = 	 {{Radical innovation: crossing knowledge boundaries with
         	   interdisciplinary teams}},
  year = 	 2009,
  month = 	 nov,
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-760}