Putting policy into practice: An exploratory study of SME innovation support in a peripheral UK region.

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Abstract

There is a need for increased clarity on how innovation policy is interpreted and implemented in practice. Lack of coherency between innovation policy and the practical design and implementation of Government sponsored innovation support programmes can hamper the effectiveness of such support and lead to failure in improving the innovativeness and competitiveness among participating firms. Focussing on a regional Government sponsored support programme for technology-based small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the aim of this paper is to conduct a multi-level exploration of the relationships between policy interpretation and support programme design and the development of innovation capability among participant SMEs within a UK peripheral region.The Innovplus programme was designed and implemented in Northern Ireland to both help nascent high technology companies become more competitive and to contribute to the goals of the Regional Innovation Strategy. The programme adopts a 2-stage process designed to enhance competitive ability through the development of innovative market-led products and manufacturing processes. A knowledge-based absorptive capacity framework is used in this paper as the theoretical lens to explore the relationships between policy interpretation and programme design and the development of innovation capability within participant SMEs. Drawing from participant observation, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and document analysis, the research employs an exploratory sense making multi-level approach (i.e. policy, programme and participant SME levels). The findings show that the design of the Innovplus programme, while linked to a coherent Regional Innovation Strategy, lacks consistency in relation to the policy and practical interpretation of knowledge and innovation. This inconsistency is reflected in the practical design of the programme with a disparity observed between the stated and actual intent of the Innovplus programme, limiting its effectiveness as a result. In terms of the development of innovation capability, it was found that recognition and development of nascent absorptive capacity drivers in potential form at stage 1 was essential before participant SMEs could transition to realised absorptive capacity in stage 2.
LanguageEnglish
JournalEnrepreneuship and Regional Development
Volume30
Early online date20 May 2017
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 May 2017

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Small and medium-sized enterprises
Innovation
Exploratory study
Innovation capability
Absorptive capacity
Innovation policy
Regional innovation
Innovation strategy
Manufacturing process
Regional government
Peripheral regions
Sensemaking
Structured interview
Multilevel approach
Innovativeness
Inconsistency
Participant observation
High technology
Knowledge-based
Northern Ireland

Keywords

  • Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
  • Innovation
  • Absorptive Capacity
  • Regional Innovation Programmes
  • Peripheral Regions.

Cite this

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title = "Putting policy into practice: An exploratory study of SME innovation support in a peripheral UK region.",
abstract = "There is a need for increased clarity on how innovation policy is interpreted and implemented in practice. Lack of coherency between innovation policy and the practical design and implementation of Government sponsored innovation support programmes can hamper the effectiveness of such support and lead to failure in improving the innovativeness and competitiveness among participating firms. Focussing on a regional Government sponsored support programme for technology-based small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the aim of this paper is to conduct a multi-level exploration of the relationships between policy interpretation and support programme design and the development of innovation capability among participant SMEs within a UK peripheral region.The Innovplus programme was designed and implemented in Northern Ireland to both help nascent high technology companies become more competitive and to contribute to the goals of the Regional Innovation Strategy. The programme adopts a 2-stage process designed to enhance competitive ability through the development of innovative market-led products and manufacturing processes. A knowledge-based absorptive capacity framework is used in this paper as the theoretical lens to explore the relationships between policy interpretation and programme design and the development of innovation capability within participant SMEs. Drawing from participant observation, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and document analysis, the research employs an exploratory sense making multi-level approach (i.e. policy, programme and participant SME levels). The findings show that the design of the Innovplus programme, while linked to a coherent Regional Innovation Strategy, lacks consistency in relation to the policy and practical interpretation of knowledge and innovation. This inconsistency is reflected in the practical design of the programme with a disparity observed between the stated and actual intent of the Innovplus programme, limiting its effectiveness as a result. In terms of the development of innovation capability, it was found that recognition and development of nascent absorptive capacity drivers in potential form at stage 1 was essential before participant SMEs could transition to realised absorptive capacity in stage 2.",
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