|dc.description.abstract||In August 2012 the author presented a paper entitled ‘’The Fuzzy Front End of Product Design Projects: How Universities Can Manage Knowledge Transfer and Creation’’ at the International Design Management Research Conference that year. Via a series of design projects and design support schemes, the paper investigated how a higher education institution with a particular approach to the management and integrating of knowledge on behalf of small firms, could bring together manufacturers, sub-contractors, design consultancies, market researchers, intellectual property specialists, funding bodies and other higher education institutions to make for an extremely effective design support network. In particular the paper dealt with the dynamics of knowledge acquisition during the ‘‘fuzzy front end’’ of product design projects. It was suggested that, through this novel approach, the management and integration of the different players involved in new product development (NPD), higher education institutions could help small firms, in particular, achieve effective knowledge transfer, develop new knowledge and generally reduce and manage uncertainty in the process and therefore utilise design more effectively in generating new products and increasing profitability.
This paper investigates the work that has taken place in the ensuing years including material that led to ‘outstanding impact’ in the 2014 UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) evidencing significant economic growth as a result of this approach to the management of the NPD process for small firms.
The paper proposes that the management and integration of those factors leading to successful NPD for small firms requires an ‘intimate’ style of engagement to be effective; demanding a broad knowledge of, and or an ability to manage, those factors pertinent to the needs of small firm. This can be seen as being similar in approach to the ‘heavyweight manager’ proposed by Clarke and Fujimoto (1991) for larger organisations with ‘in-house’ NPD teams. Based on four case studies, this paper attempts to identify the nature of this ‘intimate’ approach and therefore its potential significance.||en