Academic journal article Business: Theory and Practice

Evaluating R&D Networking to Revitalize SMEs Innovative Performances: A Management perspective/Mokymo Bei Moksliniu Tyrimu Ir Vystymo Infrastrukturos Tyrimas Smulkiojo Ir Vidutinio Verslo Imoniu Inovatyvios Veiklos Skatinimo Poziuriu: Valdymo Perspektyva

Academic journal article Business: Theory and Practice

Evaluating R&D Networking to Revitalize SMEs Innovative Performances: A Management perspective/Mokymo Bei Moksliniu Tyrimu Ir Vystymo Infrastrukturos Tyrimas Smulkiojo Ir Vidutinio Verslo Imoniu Inovatyvios Veiklos Skatinimo Poziuriu: Valdymo Perspektyva

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The role of cooperative R&D in the improvement of firm competitiveness has been an issue of increasing interest that has been extensively explored in the management literature of recent decades (Das, Teng 2000; Arora, Gambardella 1990; Basile 2011; Hagedoorn 2002). The main reasons for that interest lie in the intensity and increasing competition worldwide due to globalization trends.

Entrepreneurial competencies and firms' internal resources are seen to be insufficient to achieve greater economies of scale, to reduce the levels of uncertainty involved to compete in local and international markets and to exploit new business opportunities (D'Aveni et al. 2010). It is largely accepted that the specific knowledge is a core driver behind the emergence of a new architecture of relationships to create firm's innovativeness (Liebeskind et al. 1996; Powell et al. 1996).

For these reasons, collaborative processes are considered a plausible solution to improving individual performance levels in the case of small and medium firms or SMEs.

Access to new information and knowledge is one of the most powerful motivations behind cooperation between firms. If innovation is considered as a social process, it generally involves more than two actors and for this reason the role of external actors acquires a higher importance. Therefore, it is largely accepted that both competing and cooperating relationships involve key factors in the enhancement of firms' competitiveness levels (Lundvall 1992). The main idea extracted from the available evidence is that collaborative networking may increase firms' competitiveness, chiefly favouring productivity and innovation in the SMEs. Although it is agreed that the Italian case has been paradigmatic, other experiences are reported for other European cases, as well as for North America and Japan. In addition, management analysis has tried to explain how R&D collaboration strategy affects firms' decisions to improve innovation processes and firms' productivity.

Surprisingly, the key question whether cooperative R&D has the expected positive impact on SMEs' (innovation) performance and productivity has remained partly unexplored by the management literature (Das, Teng 2000). A number of papers have included a cooperation variable in empirical models explaining differences in firms' innovation processes (Klomp, van Leeuwen 2001), but most of these studies have been primarily concerned with the impact of R&D investments on performance, large firms' impact and with labour productivity. At the same time management studies have restricted their analyses to particular performance indicators in specific high-tech industries (e.g. the effect of alliances on high-tech start-up firm performance in the biotech industry, Baum et al. (2000), Powell et al. (1996), Liebeskind et al. (1996), or to the effect of learning in alliances on market share performance in the global automotive industry. Research has not examined systematically differences in impacts across R&D cooperation types, R&D cooperative networking in small firms and R&D networking impact on both innovation processes and productivity simultaneously.

The following analysis, instead, exploits data from a local economic system composed of manufacturing and market service firms, where small and medium enterprises (SME) are dominant and synergies bet R&D networking as a driver of firms' competitiveness.

Secondly, the relationship between R&D networking and firms' competitiveness (productivity and innovation processes) is tested; finally, I present a new R&D networking model to support SMEs' activities. In this work I attempt to offer some empirical evidence to better understand if and how R&D networking in a peripheral area can influence SMEs' performance and development.

The issue is analyzed from the perspective of the strategic implications for 63 SMEs located in Sicily, and the survey is designed to define bottom-up entrepreneurial implications on R&D decision-making. …

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