Understanding Knowledge Translation and Transfer (KTT)

Picture of a group of chairs in a circle around a light bulb representing the sharing of knowledge.

The goal of Knowledge Translation and Transfer is to accelerate the transformation of knowledge from research into use.

On this page:


KTT stands for Knowledge Translation and Transfer. At OMAFRA, it is defined as the transformation of knowledge into use through synthesis, exchange, dissemination, dialogue, collaboration and brokering among researchers and research users. All research proposals require a KTT Plan.

History of use in research

In Ontario, the concept of translating research into action is strongly associated with the field of agriculture. In 1906, the first agricultural 'extension' representative in Ontario was hired. Since then agricultural extension experts in Ontario have focused on providing practical technology transfer advice often in close association with the University of Guelph and affiliated colleges (i.e., Ridgetown and Kemptville).

International development processes apply knowledge of advancements in research and technology to assist developing parts of the world. In 2000, knowledge Translation (KT) gained greater emphasis in the field of health research at the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR).

Since 2008, Knowledge Translation and Transfer (KTT) have been integrated into OMAFRA's research funding programs. In 2009 the Agri-food and Rural Link KTT Program was launched at the University of Guelph under the OMAFRA-University of Guelph partnership.

Different disciplines describe accelerating the transformation of knowledge into action in a variety of ways and using a number of different terms.

Related Terms

Other terms commonly used for KTT activities:

  • Outreach
  • Agriculture extension
  • Technology transfer
  • Agriculture communications
  • Communicating science
  • Patents and licensing
  • Knowledge exchange
  • Knowledge mobilization
  • Knowledge dissemination
  • Research implementation
  • Knowledge extension
  • Knowledge utilization
  • Knowledge star (K*) link
  • many more

KTT Processes

Knowledge translation and transfer is the spreading and use of knowledge through various processes which speed up the benefit of research outcomes for the various user groups:

  • exchange
  • synthesis
  • dissemination
  • dialogue
  • partnering
  • brokering among researchers and users

Objectives and Impacts

The mission, vision, objectives and impacts of knowledge translation and transfer (KTT) in OMAFRA research funding programs are shown below.


The agricultural, food and rural sectors successfully adapt to changing conditions and societal needs through demand-driven transformation of knowledge into use.


To help mobilize the unique, synergistic capacities of the research's various stakeholders in the development of demand-driven research related to Ontario's agriculture, food and rural sectors and the acceleration of knowledge produced through that research into use.


Key objectives for KTT in research are:

  1. That research be developed using a needs-based approach also known as demand-driven research.
  2. That knowledge produced in research is used in a timely, effective manner.


The impact of KTT in this research is being considered in three streams:

  1. Program - Research that is used in traditional agricultural extension and technology transfer processes to alter programs. Includes audiences through the entire value chain.
  1. Policy - Research undertaken to meet gaps in policy and provide results for use by government as part of the policy development process.
  1. Commercialization - Research that has application in the development or enhancement of a commercially viable product or technology within the value chain. For the commercialization stream, the target audience may include businesses with an interest in licensing or moving the product or technology into the marketplace, as well as, groups or organizations that facilitate this linkage between research and the market.

These three streams have characteristically different target audiences, each with different needs, therefore different KTT approaches will have to be undertaken.

Role of a Knowledge Broker

A "Knowledge Broker" plays a very important role in accelerating the transformation of knowledge into action.

The role of the knowledge broker includes:

  • Connecting people to share and exchange knowledge
  • Understanding both 'worlds' and connecting research users with researchers and vice versa to accelerate knowledge into use
  • Working on overcoming barriers
  • Communicating with stakeholders/users
  • Helping researchers, technology transfer staff, and research users take responsibiity for connecting and exchange knowledge.

Figure 1: The bridge builder

Best Practices

The following best practices were compiled from a review of current literature about the use of research knowledge:

  1. Knowledge Translation and Transfer (KTT) isn't "let to happen" it is "made to happen" through a "KTT Plan". KTT begins at the research planning stage.
  2. Research user groups are identified, defined and involved in the research process:

Understanding your research audiences (users): Who are they?

    • What are their interests and needs?
    • What terms/concepts/language do they understand?
    • Key messages - If you could only make three points about your research to your audience, what would they be?
    • What communication form is best for your audience? (i.e., face to face, social media, policy meetings or journal articles)
  1. Linkages, associations, partnerships and networks between researchers and research users are defined and active to allow access to knowledge and knowledge flow.
  2. Researchers and research users work in close proximity and / or together or collaborative teams throughout the research process.
  3. Resources are allocated to KTT and research institutions, knowledge brokers, and knowledge translation and transfer institutions have the internal capacity and infrastructure to support and engage KTT.
  4. The KTT plan is implemented through timely, user-targeted transfer activities.
  5. There are incentives, recognition and rewards for KTT.


Tools and Techniques- From Across the Different Sectors:

  1. Knowledge Translation 'Toolkit- Bridging the Know-Do Gap: A Resource for Researchers, (ed) Gavin Bennett and Nasreen Jessani, Sage India, IDRC/2011-05-13 (international development).
  2. Canadian Water Network Advice from Research Users on Facilitating Research Partnerships (natural resources and the environment).
  3. From Research to Practice: A Knowledge Transfer Planning Guide - Institute for Work and Health (PDF 190kb - health care).
  4. Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Knowledge Translation and Commercialization Publications. This includes learning modules, evaluation information, casebooks and other resources.
  5. Sick Kids Foundation Knowledge Translation Training and Tools (health care).
  6. Research to Action.
  7. Knowledge Broker Forum.
  8. Health Evidence Tools.
  9. Knowledge Synthesis, Transfer and Exchange in Agri-Food Public Health: A Handbook for Science-to-Policy Professionals
  10. Clear language eresources

KTT Model

The model for knowledge translation and transfer KTT shown in Figure 1 below (also available in PDF 10.98) highlights the key concepts of knowledge translation and knowledge transfer. These concepts, combined with data management and linkages and exchange, generate a flow of knowledge that helps to create successful KTT within a research program. The model shows that knowledge goes through a process of creation in a research project, translation, transfer, use in practice and finally evaluation.

Researchers and user groups are the core players in this process. They need to know each other and exchange and co-produce knowledge. Data management and linkage and exchange activitities support this whole knowledge flow process.

Figure 1 Model for Knowledge Translation and Transfer

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For more information:
E-mail: research.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Elin Gwyn, Research Analyst-Knowledge Management/RIB
Creation Date: 24 November 2009
Last Reviewed: 22 April 2015