This impact evaluation report concerns the activities of HELIX VINN Excellence Centre at Linköping University. HELIX is an established Centre within working life research, focusing specifically on sustainable development in organizations. This entails research and innovation activities that promote good working conditions, learning, health and gender equality in combination with an effective and innovative production system.
In the HELIX VINN Excellence Centre, the interactive collaboration between researchers from different disciplines and the partner organizations has enabled us to face the challenges and the complexity of contemporary working life. The research strategy contained three key elements. Firstly, research and innovation activities were carried out with the well-established interactive research approach. Secondly, a multidisciplinary, integrative research approach was used. Researchers from different disciplines within behavioral sciences, management, business and public administration, entrepreneurship and innovation, as well the health and work sciences, collaborate within the Centre. Thirdly, a partnership approach was used, engaging universities and private firms as well as actors within the public sector and labour market organizations. The problems and issues defined in dialogue between partner organizations and researchers enabled the research activities.
HELIX vision can be captured by the phrase Knowledge for Sustainable Development in Organizations. Our research programme has focused on organizational development across a broad front in working life, including attractive working environments, high welfare standards, and effective organizations, offering sustainable job opportunities.
The research at HELIX has advanced scientific knowledge about development of new types of work arrangements and development of sustainable working life in Sweden. The Centre has also strengthened the potential for Swedish organizations to be more sustainable in the long-term and to stimulate endeavors between public and private organisations. As expressed by the partner organizations, they have joined HELIX to get support in developing their organization towards better economical and social sustainability. Our overarching goal has been to contribute significantly to scientific knowledge and, at the same time, add value to practice – that is, to put working-life research to use.
The HELIX program has also had a considerable impact on partners and other organizations. Indeed, most partners report clear benefits from the research collaboration. These benefits may concern a direct, instrumental impact (e.g. changes in organizational policies and/or routines), an indirect impact (e.g. access to new knowledge and ideas or know-how), or impact in a broader sense (e.g. interactions with other participating companies, cross-fertilization of ideas). Participation in the HELIX partnership has also for many partners meant increased interaction with research and the university, and, thereby, a significantly increased access to research-based knowledge concerning issues covered by the HELIX research program.
In spite of the often-reported difficulties in reaching direct and instrumental types of knowledge use, that is, types where research results are used more or less directly as input or guidelines for action or organizational change, our analysis shows that more than half of the respondents report direct, instrumental benefits from their engagement in HELIX, and almost three quarters of the respondents reported different forms of indirect impact. These findings are supported also by our impact cases.
A closer analysis of the HELIX program and the cases reported above, indicate a number of key success factors. First, the multi-disciplinary and interactive research approach has made it possible to reach a high degree of relevance in research questions and projects. Second, the partner organizations have had a high degree of joint ownership of the HELIX program and the projects through the HELIX partnership. Third, in the most successful cases with respect to research use and impact, we have been able to anchor the projects at the top management level and, thereby, to assure a high degree of management attention and support for the research and innovation efforts. Fourth, that there is one or more enthusiasts or “idea champions” within the organization that can promote a project or a new idea. Fifth, in the most successful cases we have also been able to create opportunities for individual and collective learning through different types of learning activities, for example, joint analysis seminars and workshops for dissemination and use of research results.
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2016. , 31 p.