This paper takes a multiple theoretical perspective, utilising concepts from the knowledge exchange and the rural, social networks literatures to explore artisan food enterprise engagement with institutional networks for innovation. A qualitative methodology is adopted, involving semi-structured interviews and group discussions with producers and institutional actors, and participant observation. The findings highlight that while informal networks, including business networks, family associations and international sources play a more important role in innovation for artisan food firms than institutional networks, institutional networks play a critical role in developing social capital and knowledge exchange among producers and in acting as a bridge to informal, embedded networks for these enterprises. The findings demonstrate how sectoral contextual factors shape interactions in the institutional actor-producer relationship, and how they impact upon involvement in institutional networks and in turn facilitate and restrict innovation in this context.
- knowledge exchange
- social capital