Improving the services of a knowledge intensive business service in a principal-agent relationship in the Dutch life sciences and health sector
Haan, E.H.M. den
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The Ministry of Economic affairs has appointed eight innovation programs to create a network of large companies, SME’s and knowledge institutions within a specific sector, in which interaction and innovation is stimulated. One of these innovation programs is ‘Life Sciences & Health’ (LSH). The aim of this innovation program is to improve the innovation and investment climate of the Dutch life sciences and health sector. One of the objectives of the program is to reduce the time of valorization of fundamental knowledge into socio-economic benefits. By removing the hurdles of the life sciences and health sector, LSH tries to stimulate the innovativeness and profits of the organizations and to improve the healthcare of patients by providing services to the stakeholders in this sector. Stakeholders in the sector have to collaborate and interact with LSH when they make use of the services of LSH. When the goals, perceptions and services of LSH are not in line with the characteristics of the stakeholders, a difference in congruence will come in existence, which leads to dysfunctional relationships between them. The aim of this research is to contribute to the success of the innovation program by decreasing the differences in characteristics like goals, perceptions and services between stakeholders and LSH. The research question of this research is therefore: ‘How can the organization ‘Life Sciences & Health’, functioning as a knowledge intensive business service in a principal agent relationship with its stakeholders decrease the asymmetry problems between them in order to improve its services towards the stakeholders and to diminish the differences in congruence between them and strengthen the commitment of the stakeholders towards the innovation program?’. In this research, not all involved stakeholders of the life sciences and health sector are included, but three stakeholder groups are identified as most important stakeholders for LSH. Those stakeholders are small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s), technology transfer offices (TTO’s) and regional initiatives (RI’s). To be able to detect the differences in characteristics between LSH and those stakeholders, a theoretical framework combining the principal-agent theory and the theory of KIBS is used. This theoretical frameworks compares both the organizational and service characteristics of the stakeholders with those of LSH. The differences in characteristics are classified in asymmetry problems. A distinction is made in differences in characteristics between LSH and the stakeholders and in differences in characteristics between the different groups of stakeholders. The asymmetries between LSH and the stakeholder groups are goal asymmetry, perception asymmetry and service compatibility. Asymmetries between the different stakeholders are goal asymmetry, barrier asymmetry, stimuli asymmetry, awareness asymmetry, service asymmetry and vision asymmetry. Via literature study, observable indicators of all characteristics are collected. Via interviews, each of the stakeholders had to indicate to what extent they thought that each observable indicator was important on a 5-points scale. Both the mean score and the coefficient of variation is determined for each indicator separately and for each stakeholder group individually. LSH was asked the same. The first part of the analysis was to identify which indicators were most important for each of the characteristics. This is done for all stakeholders individually, and additionally for the indicators of LSH. By comparing the scores of LSH with the scores of the stakeholders, and by comparing the scores of the different stakeholders, the degree of the asymmetry problems could be determined. The second step of the theoretical framework is to decrease those asymmetry problems, in order to align the services of LSH to the needs and wishes of the stakeholders, and to align the goals of the stakeholders with those of LSH in order to improve the level of commitment of the stakeholders towards the innovation program. There are several ways in which the asymmetry problems between LSH and the stakeholders could be decreased. The actions that should be taken by LSH can be divided into three groups. First, LSH has to be aware of the needs and wishes of each stakeholder group. In that way, the services of LSH can support the stakeholders in improving their activities. Without knowledge about the characteristics of the stakeholders, it is possible that the services of LSH are not in line with the needs of the stakeholders, what could lead to a lack of use of the services by the stakeholders. Suggestions to maintain the awareness of the needs of stakeholders is by communicating with them and by giving them the opportunity to tell their needs to LSH. The second step that should be taken is to act upon the needs of the stakeholders by means of adjusting the services of LSH to the needs of the stakeholders. This can be achieved by providing useful information needed by the stakeholders, but also by functioning as lobby between stakeholders and third parties. An example is to function as mediator between SME’s and the government by searching for solutions for subsidy problems. Finally, LSH should increase the awareness of stakeholders about the innovation program and the possibility for stakeholders to make use of the innovation program. Without stakeholders knowing about the innovation program, they cannot make use of it, and LSH is than not able to improve the innovation processes of these stakeholders. Additionally, the innovation and investment climate of the Dutch life sciences and health sector cannot be improved. Awareness of stakeholders of the innovation program can best be achieved by personal contact with stakeholders. Furthermore, the website of LSH should be more user-focused. By taking these three steps, the asymmetry problems between LSH and the stakeholders can be decreased. When the goals and perceptions of both LSH and the stakeholders are in line with each other, the level of trust and commitment towards each other will increase. Furthermore, the services of LSH will better be aligned with the needs of stakeholders.