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Small firm networks: a successful approach to innovation?

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This paper considers the increasing trend of inter–working among small firms. Networks of small firms co–operate in certain activities, such as marketing, purchasing, R&D, training or manufacturing. But does co–operation lead to innovation? To answer this question published evaluations of small firms co–operating for mutual benefit are reappraised. Inter–working among small firms is then investigated further by interviewing three network brokers. The brokers were funded by regional governments and they facilitated co–operation between small firms. These semi–structured discussions explored the key characteristics of successful networks, the responsibilities of the broker and the level of innovation occurring.

Networking is primarily a competitive response. It needs to evolve into a mechanism to enable small firms to develop innovative products and processes jointly. Small firms may have to rethink their approach to co–operation, and their motives for initiating inter–working if they are to benefit fully from co–operation.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Management, University of Canterbury, New Zealand 2: PRIME Faraday Partnership, Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Loughborough University, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2002


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