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Developing Absorptive Capacity In Collaborative Networks To Foster Innovation in SMEs – ACIC

Developing Absorptive Capacity in Collaborative Networks to Foster Innovation in SMEs

To address international competition, SMEs that are often characterised by limited access to resources, have developed innovation projects within collaborative networks (CN). A review of the literature identifies certain capacities that can facilitate innovation within SMES. However, little is known about how SMEs can most effectively mobilise the resources of CNs within their own organisations and how best to collaborate with other companies to maximise success in their innovation projects.

Toward a better understanding of the absorptive capacity (ACAP) of SMEs in Collaborative Networks (CN)

The major aims of the ACIC project are to provide SMEs operating within collaborative networks in industrial clusters, with a novel cost-effective approach and associated tools to enhance innovation within their organisations. This will be achieved by focusing on the following objectives:(i) developing an improved understanding of the knowledge-base, capacities and mechanisms that generate ACAP of SMEs embedded in CNs (ii) operationalising the concept of ACAP by developing a maturity-assessment tool to enable SMEs to measure their absorptive capacity and gauge their performance (iii) and by providing SMEs with an organising tool based on novel serious gaming and socialisation techniques that model ACAP practices in innovation projects.

A qualitative and quantitative mixed-method that joins management science, engineering science and informatics science.

SMEs will be considered in the context of their CN in order to take into account contingency factors that will influence ACAP in the innovation of products, services or processes.

To achieve these objectives, the originality of the methodological approach includes:
- A comparison between “traditional” industries (in particular those in the mechanical and textile industries) and “creative” industries (in particular those in the software and video games industry)
- A focus on horizontal CNs (that is to say between companies that do not belong to the same type of industry; among SMEs or in the context of SMEs collaborating with major groups)
- A comparison between France and UK

- A taxonomy of innovation oriented knowledge (IOK)
- Modelling of ACAP practices in order to identify best practices
- The characterisation of contingency variables of ACAP
- A scale of measure of ACAP
- A tool that will model ACAP practices within CNs

The characterization of ACAP best practices in several industries and types of CNs will make it possible to generalise the results across a range of different industry and CN contexts for innovation.


Future work would be to integrate the maturity levels of ACAP into the modelling tool in order to further enable and improve the understanding and application of ACAP within SMEs.

Benhayoun, L, Dominguez Péry, C, Le Dain M.-A., Digital capabilities for SMEs’ innovation in collaborative networks: A literature review. The 20th International AIM Conference, Rabat, Morocco, 20-22 May, 2015.

De Benedittis, J., Dominguez-Péry, C. (2014), « Le rôle des cellules d’animation des pôles de compétitivité dans le processus de partage de connaissances inter-organisationnel », 19ème édition du Colloque annuel de l’Association Information et Management (AIM), Aix-en-Provence, 20-21 mai

De Benedittis, J., Dominguez-Péry, C., Farastier, A., Geindre, S., Tassabehji, R. (2015), “Exploring the “black box” of ACAP in SMEs from the perspective of micro-practices and routines : the case of a textile cluster”, 7th International Symposium on Process Organization Studies (PROS), Kos, Greece, 24-27 July.

De Benedittis, J., Tassabehji, R., Dominguez-Péry, C. (Juillet 2014), «Inter-organizational collaborative practices: The role of French clusters«, 30th Egos colloquium, Sub-theme 28 (Unsettling Boundaries: Practices of Inter-organizational Collaboration), Rotterdam.

Dominguez-Péry, C., De Benedittis, J., Tassabehji, R., Geindre S., Farastier A. (2015), “The role of SMEs’ individual ACAP to enhance radical innovations: the case of a textile cluster”, 31th EGOS Colloquium, Athens, Greece, 2-4 July.

Innovation is widely acknowledged to be the catalyst to economic growth and SMEs the growth engine. Both have been the focus of European policy makers as a means of improving international competitiveness and consolidating industrial renewal. To counter the problem of increased global competition, for SMEs with limited resources, innovation projects within collaborative networks (CNs) are increasingly considered to be a way in which they can compete and grow. The literature has shown that collaborative interactions can improve SME innovativeness and competitiveness. But not much is understood of how SMEs should concretely utilise the resources embedded in CNs within their own organisation, and how they should interact with other SMEs to pursue successful innovation projects.

A growing body of empirical evidence further suggests that a firm’s ability to identify, assimilate, transform and apply knowledge known as absorptive capacity (ACAP) (Cohen et Levinthal), plays a critical role in innovation. But there is a dearth of knowledge in terms of how ACAP can be operationalised, both at the strategic and operational levels, to help SMEs, embedded in CNs, to develop successful innovation projects.

The major aims of this project are to provide SMEs operating within CNs in industrial clusters, with a novel cost-effective approach and associated tools to enhance innovation within their organisations. This will be achieved by focusing on the following objectives:(i) developing an improved understanding of the knowledge-base, capacities and mechanisms that generate ACAP of SMEs embedded in CNs (ii) operationalising the concept of ACAP by developing a maturity-assessment tool to enable SMEs to measure their absorptive capacity and gauge their performance (iii) and by providing SMEs with an organising tool based on novel serious gaming and socialisation techniques that model ACAP practices in innovation projects to implement best practices and enhance SMEs’ reflexivity.

The multi-disciplinary collaboration, the diversity of contexts and originality of the approach, underpins the novelty of this project. First, the project will adopt a multi-disciplinary (management; engineering and informatics) and multi-methodological approach (qualitative and quantitative to build in-depth case studies, and group experimentation to develop applied tools) in close collaboration between industry practitioners and academics. The original tools that will be developed (a maturity grid and organising tool) can be applied in real-life contexts with the objective of impacting SMEs innovation projects embedded in CNs. These deliverables will also be directly useful for Masters and Professional teaching building knowledge and further understanding of ACAP.

This research will focus on a range of contexts to understand ACAP in SMEs holistically. The Rhône-Alpes region is characterised by a high number of SMEs embedded in CNs, expected to be fields that bring a high potential to generate more innovation. We will characterise ACAP in different CN configurations Furthermore, the French government has targeted funding to develop “pôle de compétitivité” or clusters to help regenerate economic growth in these post-industrial regions. In France, clusters tend to have top-down structures with formal governance approaches. By contrast, the UK has considerably fewer clusters that are largely market driven with an ad-hoc governance structure. We will use this country comparison to better understand the role that clusters, as “boundary brokers” play in the process of SME innovation and growth driven by ACAP in CNs. Finally we will consider cases in both traditional and creative industries. Early research has suggested there is a different type of ACAP in creative industries and thus by comparing both traditional and creative industries this could provide opportunities for re-configuring ACAP mechanisms to improve cross-industry innovation potential.

Project coordinator

Madame Carine Dominguez-Pery (Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Appliquées à la Gestion)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

INNOVACS SFR Innovation, Connaissances, Société
IXIADE IXIADE
THESAME MECATRONIQUE MANAGEMENT
Univ. Bradford University of Bradford, School of Management
Univ. Liverpool University of Liverpool, Management School
LIG Laboratoire d'Informatique de Grenoble
CERAG Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Appliquées à la Gestion
G-SCOP Laboratoire des Sciences pour la Conception, l'Optimisation et la Production de Grenoble

Help of the ANR 566,686 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2014 - 36 Months

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