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EDUCATING FOR INNOVATION, NETWORKS AND TRANS-DISCIPLINARITY IN THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY

G. Hearn, R. Bridgstock

Queensland University of Technology (AUSTRALIA)
It could be argued that societies have always depended on knowledge to build their economies, and that the current era is no different in this regard. However, in this paper we make a case for three features of modern economies that make the term ‘knowledge economy’ meaningful (Hearn and Rooney, 2008).The three features are:

1. Innovation
2. Networks
3. Trans-disciplinarity

It is the ability to generate new ideas, concepts, products and services, rather than deriving greater efficiency and economies of scale from existing production processes, that has been a key factor in the transition from an industrial to a knowledge economy. This drive for innovation is the heart of the knowledge economy. Moreover, the value of many new products depends not just on their functionality but on how they connect to other agents and associated functionality. This is true in a technical sense (eg mobile phone networks); a service sense (eg credit cards); a software sense (eg operating systems) and a cultural sense (eg English language MBAs). Such connections are forged across technological, economic and cultural domains, in diverse forms such as patents and designs, entrepreneurship, and artistic product, and ‘no intellectual domain or economic sector has a monopoly on creativity’ (Mitchell et. al., 2003, p.18). It appears particularly important for the 'source' disciplines of science, technology, creative/cultural industries and business to forge these trans-disciplinary connections in the knowledge economy.

We provide these defining features of the knowledge economy as very broad aims for education systems to orient to. Following on from this, in the second part of this paper we ask two questions.. First: to what extent, and in what manner, are our education systems orientated toward the defining features of the knowledge economy at present? Second: what opportunities are there for formal education to engage with the three creative economy imperatives outlined above more effectively? To address these questions, we draw upon literature from the education policy, graduate capabilities, and innovative pedagogy arenas. We conclude by suggesting a number of high level strategies by which educators can cultivate graduates who will be well positioned to drive the networked, trans-disciplinary innovation economy.