An interventionist framework for promoting sustainable growth in SMEs: the role of HEIs as implementation specialists
The vast majority of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across EU and OECD regions are medium-to-low-tech firms, and by far the main type of innovation that SMEs undergo can be described as incremental innovations whereby small changes in processes or management procedures are ongoing over a period of time. Despite this, regional innovation initiatives are recognised to be narrowly focused as well as biased towards high-tech firms and ‘radical’ innovations whilst incremental innovation assumes a secondary role. If SMEs are to achieve their growth potential, and especially manufacturing-based SMEs, we argue that an incremental approach to innovation, at least initially, is crucial. It is our contention that higher education instittutions—by virtue of their knowledge base, mentoring capabilities, and access to resources—should seek to position themselves as key ‘practical implementation’ players for this form of regional innovation. On the basis of research and practical implementation projects carried out in medium-to-low-tech SMEs located in the UK North West, we present an interventionist framework to assist manufacturing-based SMEs to develop and implement sustainable agile growth strategies, and consider the policy implications of such an approach.
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