بررسی نقش نزدیکی در کسب دانش شرکت های کوچک و متوسط
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|15354||2005||19 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Research Policy, Volume 34, Issue 5, June 2005, Pages 683–701
Knowledge-acquisition activities of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are assumed to benefit from geographic proximity to similar firms and centres of research excellence. This paper will explore the knowledge-acquisition processes and critical interfaces of innovative SMEs and outline factors that contributed to an observed lack of geographic proximity-based knowledge search activity. A growth path based upon innovation driven, rapid internationalisation and subsequent customisation strategies fostered organisational proximity-based knowledge-acquisition from international sources. It is argued that local contextual factors will determine if organisational or geographic proximity (or both) are the key to knowledge-acquisition. The recognition of a diversity of potential growth trajectories is recommended for SME policies.
Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) traditionally have been thought to benefit from collaborative knowledge-based activities in geographic regions based on the presumption that it is easier to mobilise the complementary resources and capabilities embedded in localised networks. Cluster research, for example, was developed following the observation of extraordinary productivity in certain industries in specific regions, such as in Northern Italy and Silicon Valley, where knowledge sharing between organisations in close geographic proximity appeared to have been a key source of advantage. Exploiting the inter-organisational benefits of geographic proximity now underpins a huge variety of policy initiatives as governments attempt to develop the regional advantages for national economic growth. There is little doubt that geographic clustering has been a major contributing factor historically in the growth of many regions. In addition, there is evidence that firstly, the clustering of innovative activities correlates with productivity (Paci and Usai, 2000) and, secondly, that firms in clusters do innovate more (Baptista and Swann, 1998). However, like McKelvey et al. (2003) this paper addresses the validity of co-location arguments related to knowledge generation and innovation. In particular, the question is asked as to whether it necessarily follows that close geographic proximity to complementary knowledge and capabilities plays a part in SME innovation in all situations. If geographic proximity is not always fundamental to SME innovation, what factors might indicate the suitability of, or drive the development of, alternative knowledge-acquisition strategies? The objective of the paper is to explore the way in which a sample of innovative manufacturing and service SMEs based in New Zealand accessed the knowledge that was key (as described by the SME managers) to continued innovation. All the firms studied grew on the back of a significant innovation and most are now ‘international’ in character in that they export virtually all of their production. Although most of the firms worked with local New Zealand suppliers, very few of these were described as key knowledge sources. In order to understand better the role of proximity, the knowledge-acquisition processes will be described according to the critical interfaces employed to access and develop crucial knowledge bases. Whether these interfaces were reliant on geographic or organisational proximity provides the basis for a discussion of the impact of proximity and potential factors that might explain the observed lack of geographic proximity-based knowledge-acquisition activity. Whilst the size of the sample used in this research can only result in the development of exploratory insights into this apparently non-localised knowledge-acquisition behaviour, particularly with respect to small-firms in small countries, the paper will attempt to develop some propositions regarding SME growth and innovation, which take into account factors that might trigger a growth trajectory that does not exploit geographic proximity to knowledge sources.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The impact of geographic proximity to knowledge sources on the innovative activity of firms and regions will no doubt continue to be of great interest to scholars and policy makers alike. The contribution of this study is to provide further evidence that a ‘one size fits all’ regional policy approach to supporting SME growth is not necessarily appropriate in all contexts. In this New Zealand case study, firms from a variety of industrial sectors were able to grow and be successful internationally without reliance on localised knowledge sources. Several of the critical interfaces (Carrincazeaux et al., 2001) that underpin knowledge-acquisition, particularly those with local intra-sectoral firms and with local public research establishments, appeared to be absent as important sources in the firms’ recent knowledge-acquisition strategies. In addition, the ability of a selection of New Zealand knowledge intensive SMEs to succeed internationally by offering what could be called ‘knowledge-embedded solutions’, despite the lack of local critical knowledge-acquisition interface options, indicates that alternative paths for SME growth may be as viable as the path that progresses through geographic proximity to other intra-sectoral firms. The lack of localised knowledge-acquisition activity and the observation of an alternative growth path based on rapid internationalisation, are attributed to various characteristics of the local innovation environment in conjunction with the SMEs’ own innovation strategies and market bases. Firstly, the lack of other local intra-sectoral firms at the time the new venture began worked against the likelihood of knowledge-acquisition activities based on geographic proximity. It is proposed that this results in a much stronger reliance on the internal critical interface, so that a greater emphasis on building the internal R&D knowledge base, through processes such as recruitment but also merger and acquisition, will result. The absence of a substantial domestic market combined with a world-leading innovation propelled many of these firms into a growth path of rapid internationalisation, such that they were very quickly exposed to sophisticated and demanding international customers. Thus the key critical knowledge-acquisition interfaces very quickly became the international, rather than local, inter-sectoral and intra-sectoral interactions. This can be framed as displacement of the opportunity for gaining benefit from geographic proximity by the increasing importance to the firms’ innovative activities of organisational proximity (Lemarié et al., 2001) to distant customers and collaborators. The third set of factors centre upon the innovation strategy followed by these firms once established in the international markets. The SMEs, in general, differentiated themselves by offering ‘knowledge-embedded solutions’ to their customers, which depended heavily on both the internal, and international intra-sectoral and inter-sectoral interfaces as key knowledge sources. Thus, high levels of customisation for key customers drove further innovation, a factor that also works against localisation of activities in favour of knowledge-acquisition from demanding but distant (at least geographically) customers, consultants and distribution agents. In summary, it appears that the growth path that is peculiar to this specific set of innovative SMEs may be a significant factor in the observed lack of geographic proximity attributes in their knowledge-acquisition activities. Thus, the fact that sectors with co-located knowledge sharing firms have not emerged does not reflect a lack of innovative firms. What it does reflect is the particular combination of circumstances, including the lack of other local intra-sectoral firms at new venture start-up (which, in turn, reflects the lack of depth and density of firm numbers in most sectors), coupled with a world-leading innovation, which drive the firms on a rapid internationalisation path instead of a growth path based on geographic proximity to, and collaboration with, local firms. When this is coupled with the subsequent ‘knowledge-embedded solution’ customisation strategy, the interface with intra-sectoral international firms and inter-sectoral international customers and agents, cements the non-localised approach as the preferred mode for firm knowledge-acquisition activities. Thus, because the key knowledge interfaces are with entities that are neither resident in the region, nor in New Zealand, organisational proximity dominates knowledge-acquisition activity over geographic proximity. Having said this, the counter-factual situation is not present to check this proposition, that is, it cannot be determined what would have happened if local intra-sectoral firms had been accessible to the SME early on in its life. Would the firm indeed have focused their knowledge-acquisition practices locally or would rapid internationalisation have driven them on the alternative path regardless of any collaborative opportunities with local intra-sectoral firms? In which case the key driver may be the world-leading innovation that launches the firm on this path rather than the lack of intra-sectoral collaboration. Whatever the outcome might have been, the fact that local intra-sectoral knowledge sources did not exist did not preclude the success of these firms. Such an outcome is, therefore, further evidence that there are a number of factors that foster knowledge-acquisition by SMEs. Geographic proximity may be the key to SME knowledge-acquisition and growth in certain contexts and at certain times in the life cycle of a firm. In other environments, however, organisational proximity may be as important as geographic proximity or, as has been described for these New Zealand firms, organisation proximity is the sole proximity attribute of knowledge-acquisition. In a similar vein, Tallman et al. (2004) argues that as the construct of closeness for information exchange changes, “the relevant concept of space may move away from physical geography”. Regional development policies could, therefore, be more appreciative and inclusive of relevant contextual factors could drive a diversity of potential SME growth paths. In France, for example, Mangematin et al. (2003) found that two different growth trajectories were observed for biotechnology SMEs, and argued that this explained the variable effects of certain public policies. In this New Zealand case, initiatives supporting geographic proximity might be important for innovative start-ups but other policies supporting rapid internationalisation strategies would be more appropriate as the firms mature. In this way, a flexible suite of policies would be tailored to the local context of available growth paths, and their associated knowledge-acquisition proximity attributes, as some or all of these trajectories may be as viable in the longer term as growth based solely on geographic proximity to knowledge sources. Acknowledgements This work is part of the Competitive Advantage New Zealand (CANZ) research programme, funded by the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, contract no. VIC806. The author would like to acknowledge and thank research assistant, Charles Campbell, for his extensive efforts in data collation and analysis.