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 U.K peripheral region. The Innovplus programme was designed and implemented in Northern Ireland to help nascent high technology companies become more competitive and to contribute to the goals of the Regional Innovation Strategy. A knowledge-based absorptive capacity framework is used as the theoretical lens to explore the relationships between policy interpretation and programme design and the development of innovation capability within participant SMEs. 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, 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 was essential before participant SMEs could transition to realised absorptive capacity.
- Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
- Absorptive Capacity
- Regional Innovation Programmes
- Peripheral Regions.