Industries, as well as the governments of the world, scrutinise higher education institutions. Although Higher Education is the most stable of all the educational levels, the demand for greater relevance of these institutions in today’s society is a matter of certainty. South Africa’s economy is strongly dependent for its growth on finance, real estate and business services. This fast growing sector demands a knowledge-based economy for sustainable growth. In order to stay relevant and to be sustainable, research is imperative. The new responsibility to produce more research has led to a transition phase that puts universities constantly on the defence. This study considers the effect of producing more and more research and the race to be the top research university in South Africa. Challenges are numerous, including Government’s pressure on universities be more independent of state funds.
The University of Pretoria serves as exemplar to study the effect and consequences of the transition from a knowledge management perspective. The researcher implemented the Work System Theory of Steven Alter to analyse the elements of the research work system. The study has been conducted on two levels: The Research Information Management System (RIMS) database of the Department of Research and Innovation Support (DRIS) was analysed to obtain a broad overview of the research conducted by University of Pretoria researchers between 2006 and 2009. On the second level, the top researchers from faculties on the main campus were identified and interviewed during 2014 and 2015 in order to obtain an individual perspective. The findings and gap analysis showed that although the University of Pretoria is considered one of the top research institutions, many gaps exist that inhibit the dissemination of knowledge throughout organisations and that changes need to be implemented. The fields of Economic Geography and Information Systems were applied to get a better understanding of knowledge integration in the knowledge management field. The study culminated in a research framework derived from strategic, tactical and operational input by top researchers. Aspiring researchers can use the framework to understand the environment in which research needs to take place and to improve their personal strategies to enhance their research output.