The innovation management literature describes a competitive advantage when applying Design Thinking (DT) in corporate environments. In this paper we study the perceived challenges, enablers, and benefits for implementing DT in publicly funded transdisciplinary industry-academia research and innovation consortia (RIC). We facilitate and investigate five large RIC from the food and high-tech industry in Norway and Germany using an explorative qualitative action research design. Our research shows that the challenges of using DT in RIC are to some extent comparable to those for the corporate context. Additionally, we identify distinct challenges for RIC. Benefits from using DT in RIC are stronger user and innovation focus, better transdisciplinary collaboration, and triangulation of qualitative with scientific data. We suggest that complex RIC benefit from an intermediary (DT) role translating business needs into research questions, and research results into understandable and business-relevant information and innovation.
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