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Nouvelle donne pour l’innovation dans les petites entreprises: processus et outils [Innovation in small businesses: processes and tools]

Nouvelle donne pour l’innovation dans les petites entreprises: processus et outils [Innovation in small businesses: processes and tools]

Piterou, Athena ORCID: 0000-0003-4138-113X (2013) Nouvelle donne pour l’innovation dans les petites entreprises: processus et outils [Innovation in small businesses: processes and tools]. Project Report. NDI Partnership, Basse-Normandie (Lower Normandy), France.

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Executive Summary

Recommendations for the development of the innovator’s toolkit.

The report summarises the key difficulties small businesses face regarding innovation. Small businesses face some pertinent problems such as lack of strategic thinking time and limited access to resources. On the other hand, increased flexibility and responsiveness to market are usually defined as the advantages of innovating small businesses (Keizer et al., 2002; Boldrini et al., 2011). The development of the toolkit should build on these identified strengths and weaknesses. In particular, the suggested tools should take into account the limited time small businesses managers have to engage in strategic thinking about innovation: tools should be packaged in forms needing minimal support and preparation.

Most NDI project partners are organisations engaged in business support that will be active in the delivery of the toolkit. There is some evidence that relations between business support organisations and small businesses are complex and difficult for many firms to navigate. One implication for the toolkit design is that the method of delivery and the role of the support agencies may be equally important to the tools themselves. A suggestion may be that businesses are provided with a sole point of contact to ensure continuity in the business-support agency relationship. The survey will test whether particular tools suit different modes of delivery.

The literature review conducted for this report has helped define the themes that should be further explored in the survey. There are sufficient data regarding the type of innovation small businesses engage in and the obstacles they face but less regarding the “black-boxed” innovation process. A particular challenge for NDI is that the project focuses on sectors that are not traditionally considered innovative: the “artisanal” sectors have attracted less interest than high-technology firms. The survey will aim to cover this gap by collecting data on innovation processes in small businesses (origins and realisation of innovative ideas).

Collaborative or more broadly open innovation was a further theme emerging in the literature. Collaboration allows small businesses to draw on resources that are not available and cannot be developed in-house. One of the roles of support agencies is to promote inter-firm linkages. The questionnaire survey will consider the role of collaborative relations and experience with support programmes in fostering innovation. The aim of the NDI project is to develop a toolkit that small businesses can use in developing their innovation projects. The research for this report has resulted in the following implications for the design of the toolkit:
1. Need to develop diagnostic tools / “innovation audits” to evaluate the needs and potential of SMEs. Widely used innovation indicators such as investment in R&D are not as suitable for measuring innovation in small businesses. Alternative indicators such as investment in skills and staff development may be more suited to small businesses.
2. How to aid small businesses develop the “absorptive capacity” to benefit from collaboration while at the same time building on the benefits of existing small business expertise.
3. Consider the potential of mentoring schemes and SME-university collaboration in achieving knowledge transfer to small businesses.
4. Consider how businesses can build beneficial contacts with potential partners (other small firms or larger firms, business support organisations and research/training institutes). Some evidence in support of these programmes is already available from the partners. Firms can benefit from a wider variety of links with diverse organisations.
5. Identify what role the partner organisations will have in the delivery of the tools: in particular, distinguish between the roles of general business support organisations and sector specific agencies. Alignment between tools and delivery methods should be considered.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Additional Information: [1] Etude 2012-2013
Uncontrolled Keywords: small business, innovation, toolkits
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business > Department of Systems Management & Strategy
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2020 15:48

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