نوآوری و شرکتهای کوچک و متوسط: اهداف و دیدگاه های تغییر یافته در میان کارآفرینان، دانشگاهیان و سیاستگذاران
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|17943||2008||15 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Technovation, Volume 28, Issue 7, July 2008, Pages 393–407
The present research stems from the results of a survey on the innovativeness of a sample of Italian Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). These results, largely based on self-reported data by entrepreneurs or managers, showed that the considered SMEs were important developers of radical innovations in contrast with data published by local institutions. This misalignment between the entrepreneurs’ opinions and the official data, that are typically defined and selected by academics and policy makers, motivated a new research aimed at analyzing the intimate reasons for it. The research is rooted in the social construction of innovation perspective and is based on interviews with the three main innovation stakeholders, identified as: entrepreneurs, academics, and policy makers. The results show the existence of deeply different perspectives concerning innovation, starting from its definition, to the effective policies to promote it, to the role of intermediary institutions and so on. Sometimes, these views show diverging goals among the stakeholders and, consequently, contrasting opinions on effective supporting policies. These results can partly explain the misalignment between the survey's output and “institutional” data and, maybe, also the failure of many supporting initiatives that are largely documented by our survey and also by literature. The aim of the paper is to investigate the different perspectives on innovation held by the considered stakeholders, highlighting the points of major contrast together with similarities in order to provide new insights into the problem.
This study stems from the results of a survey we conducted in 2003.1 The analysis revealed that the surveyed Italian Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are important developers of radical technological innovation, contrary to the data provided by local and national institutions (e.g. the Chamber of Commerce and ISTAT-National Institute of Statistics). Such a result motivated a re-examination of the collected data and initiated a new theoretical and empirical research focused on the investigation of the possible explanations for this misalignment. From a theoretical point of view, the study reviews the innovation literature in order to examine the ways in which the term “innovation” has been defined and operationalized. Notwithstanding the largely shared view on the importance of innovation, or maybe also for this reason, a plethora of definitions for innovation types have been developed, resulting in an ambiguity in the term “innovation” (see e.g. Garcia and Calantone, 2002). Traditionally, the issue of innovation has been dealt with by defining the object of innovation (product, process, organization, etc.) and the degree of novelty introduced by the innovation (from a totally new idea to minor adaptation). Recently, new research questions have emerged stressing the importance of the criteria applied to classify innovation and the subjectivity of such criteria, attempting to go beyond the typical categories of incremental and radical innovation. Among these streams, some authors emphasize the social and cultural aspects of innovation. They adopt Weick's (1995) treatment of “sense making” as a common social constructionist framework for interpreting data: “what the situation means is defined by who I become while dealing with it or what and who I represent” (Weick, 1995). The idea that the source of innovation perception is social is deeply rooted in the social construction of innovation (Burns and Stalker, 1961; Zaltman et al., 1973). Avoiding the problem of perception is neither feasible nor desirable. In fact, a broad stream of literature on entrepreneurship/SMEs agrees in recognizing the impact of entrepreneurs’ perceptions on their behaviors and on firm performances (see e.g. Cooper et al., 1988; Stewart and Roth, 2001; Stewart et al., 2003; Lerner and Tamar, 2002; Smith-Doerr et al., 2004). The survey's empirical evidences that contrast with “institutional” data, together with the themes emerging from the literature review, gave light to new research questions. These new questions regard the different perspectives existing on innovation among the several social groups dealing with it and the possible/impossible ways of reconciling them in order to be effective in establishing innovation policies and programs. From an empirical point of view, a new qualitative research, rooted in the social construction of innovation, has been developed. Interviews with people involved in the innovation process have been conducted in order to identify similarities and differences in their perspectives. Delving into details of the different perspectives on innovation is not a mere academic game. In fact, as it will be underlined in the theoretical section, perspectives deeply influence behaviors, in terms of innovation policy making and innovation practices inside companies and universities. The paper is organized as follows. First, the concept of innovation, as it has been treated in literature, is explored and a brief review of the definitions, indicators and methodologies is provided. Second, literature about innovation in SMEs is briefly reviewed in order to extract the most common research questions investigated in the field. Third, the empirical background of the research is described: some details on the first survey are provided and the new research questions are defined. Fourth, the empirical research is introduced, giving details on data collection and analysis. Fifth, the results are discussed in order to answer the proposed research questions. Finally, some conclusions are provided.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This study has sought to highlight the different perspectives emerging in innovation issues, due to the different stakeholders involved. It contributes to shed new light on the conceptual understanding of the social and cognitive aspects that are too often neglected in the field. An essential point is that this study is not to be intended as an attempt to determine which perspective is “right” but rather aims at finding those points where perspective diverge and suggests how to reconcile them. Delving into details of the different perspectives on innovation is not a mere academic game because, as noticed in the theoretical section, perspectives deeply influence behaviors. A preliminary consideration is that innovation has several stakeholders holding personal opinions on the matter and no one has more right than the others to define the problem. This apparently obvious consideration has a direct consequence: innovation indicators should take into consideration these different opinions, or, at least, the perspective on innovation at the basis of specific indicators should be declared. If this is not the case, the results could be misleading. This probably can partly explain the misalignments between the results of the survey conducted in 2003, largely based on self-reported data by entrepreneurs, and the so-called official data, based on traditional indicators. Traditional innovation indicators, mainly based on inputs or countable outputs are strongly criticized by the entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs, affirming that SMEs do not put innovation in the balance sheet, ask for new indicators that are able to measure also the intangible effects of innovation. The problem of defining new and more effective indicators is largely shared also by the policy makers. In fact, the choice of indicators is neither the most important nor the worst misalignment problem among the innovation stakeholders, but it gives evidence of diverging perspectives. The following indicates some points on which the three stakeholders seem to agree and highlights some paradoxical divergences. All of the interviewees agree on the strategic importance of innovation in order to survive and compete on a global market. Furthermore, they agree that the objective of “recreating Silicon Valley”, that has been so influential in shaping the regional priorities in the past, now only belongs to the dream book of regional policy makers. Wide evidences now support a sound skepticism about the ability to originate hi-tech clusters by decree. As noted by Martin and Sunley (2003, p. 28): “even cluster enthusiasts find it enormously difficult to point to any examples of deliberate cluster promotion programs that have been unambiguously successful”. It is common opinion that innovation policies are continuously subject to rapidly changing fads: yesterday it was technology parks, today clusters and tomorrow…. As regards intermediary institutions, the interviewed stakeholders conclude that they failed significantly in delivering the expected benefits in terms of support to innovation activities. They claim, for example, that intermediary institutions failed in the development of strong and operational ties between firms, universities, and other research institutions. Indeed, the failure of intermediary institutions is well documented in literature too (see e.g. Massey et al., 1992; Westhead and Cowling, 1995; Vedovello, 1997; Oakey and Mukhtar, 1999; Bakouros et al., 2002). In the general negative opinion about intermediary institution performances, some stakeholders suggest new potential roles for them. For example, on the one hand, the academics say that intermediary institutions could provide spaces and contacts for the joint laboratories between universities and firms, creating stable and continuing relations. But, in order to do that, they should employ experienced people with strong personal networks. On the other hand, the entrepreneurs ask for support in certification processes and testing laboratories. Furthermore, they denounce difficulties in communicating with science laboratories, universities, and the EU because of a perceived cultural gap. Intermediary institutions could play a fundamental role in supporting SMEs from these points of view. It is worth noting that the role of supporting the link between business and science had been included in many intermediary institutions’ mission statements but, clearly, it is not effective. From these research findings, some paradoxical divergences seem to emerge. First, the need for a regional innovation policy seems to be a common goal for all the policy makers. Notwithstanding this, doubts and skepticism are increasing about the real possibility that a centralized and “inflexible” European supra national actor could effectively manage and allow such a local policy. Some interviewees challenge the ability of regional human resources to realize innovation objectives and to contribute to the growth of the targeted regions. Furthermore, they argue that regional policies involve too many actors (e.g. municipalities, provincial governments, and so on) with overlapping authorities and skills as well as with weak legitimacy. In order to overcome these weaknesses, the recruitment and training policies of local institution staffs should be heavily renewed. In addition, organizational changes should be promoted in order to reduce the overlapping of roles. It is worth noting that in Italy there is an extra layer between municipalities and regions that contributes to increase the problem. Second, universities are asked to be more involved in entrepreneurial activities and, Entr2 says, “to step down from the ivory tower”, but, when they start up their enterprises, they are blamed of playing unfairly on the market. In fact, they are perceived as having preferential links to financial sources (e.g. the EU) and acting on a captive market (e.g. universities and public administrations). If university spin offs acted applying front-end technologies or the results of advanced researches, no one would feel threatened by unfair competition. Then, the suggestion could be that agencies and incubators, aimed at promoting university spin offs, should be more selective in choosing who to allocate funds to. What is evidently emerging from the research is the great complexity of innovation issues at the social and cognitive levels as well as the need to shape shared visions and expectations by means of long and stable relationships. Contradictory goals and interests cannot be simply removed by favoring knowledge translation, even though it is a crucial task that has to be performed (see e.g. Kaufmann and Todtling, 2001). Indeed, the role of intermediary institutions (whatever they may be, Science Parks, Innovation Relay Centers, etc.) should be to facilitate the convergence among stakeholders’ goals and perspectives. For example, a strong and never ending “divide” seems to exist between academics and entrepreneurs despite increasing industry–university linkages reported in literature (see e.g. Siegel et al., 2003). As underlined by Acad6: “Researchers are forced, in order to get visibility in their disciplines, to write in a hyper specialized language and most of their contributions remain largely constrained to academic circles. The average entrepreneur is not even curious to read boring academic papers and the average researcher is not intrigued by firm management problems” (for the complete discussion, see Merlino, 2005). The results from the study confirm that often supporting policies are perceived by entrepreneurs as mistargeted, neglecting the real deficiencies and weaknesses of SMEs. Some authors (e.g. Kaufmann and Todtling, 2002) suggest that universities should provide proactive consultancy to SMEs but, according to the interviews, both the entrepreneurs and the policy makers disagree. The former argue that they are aware of their own deficiencies and thus they do not need universities’ advice, the latter argue that consultancy is not the role universities have to play. There are several ways that future research might move forward. Future research could be focused on identifying different segments within the population of every stakeholder. For example, the entrepreneurs could be segmented by industry or geographic location and the academics by discipline. Moreover, innovation management researchers could be included in order to refine the analysis. Alternatively, it might be fruitful to include other stakeholders such as engineering companies, consulting companies, banks, etc. that at the moment have been neglected despite their undoubted importance in innovation processes. Concluding, even though the research seems to confirm the need of reconciling different perspectives, this does not mean that a total agreement among stakeholders is always auspicated because it is known that some benefits can derive from “creative tension”. What is essential to underline is the necessity of being aware of the existing divergences and of creating a common ground for specific interventions, declaring from time to time the basic shared assumptions and the expected goals.