Beyond industry-university links: Sourcing knowledge for innovation from consultants, private research organisations and the public science-base
This paper explores the use of specialist knowledge providers as sources of information in the innovation activities of manufacturing and service firms. Specialist knowledge providers are consultancies, private research organisations and the public science-base (i.e., universities and the government research laboratories). These may be engaged by firms in co-operative arrangement for innovation or as informal sources of information. We find, as anticipated, that amongst other factors specialist knowledge providers are more likely to be engaged by firms with more open approaches to innovation, those with high levels of absorptive capacity, those with greater social capital and networking capabilities, as well as by those with deeper commitments to innovation. Overall, the use of specialist knowledge providers tends to complement firms' own internal innovation activities and to complement other external sources of knowledge. Moreover, the individual types of specialist knowledge providers tend to complement rather than substitute for one another. Beyond this we find significant differences in the types of specialist knowledge providers used by manufacturing and service firms. Although service firms are more likely than manufacturers to use specialist knowledge providers, they are more likely to engage consultants, whilst their links with research-based organisations, including the public science-base, are weaker. We ask whether there is a case for increasing the extent to which the public science-base undertakes activities that are relevant to innovation in the services.
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