The Beer Beneath The Froth: Preliminary findings from case studies of 25 small high technology firms
Across Europe those who create and run high-tech SMEs have become a primary focus of industrial policy. Part of the rationale for the focus on small high-tech firms lies in the desire to emulate the experience of the US, particularly Silicon Valley and Boston in which spinning off new ventures from research institutions has been seen to play a key role. By comparison the performance of Europe’s research base has been less dynamic. A more pro?active stance towards new ventures created by HEIs is welcomed, however to focus policy too narrowly on this group has inherent dangers. There is a danger of implicitly promoting a particular business model: one emphasising personal financial gain and venture capital funding, which may be at variance with those prevailing among the broad spectrum of existing high-tech small firms. The characteristics, pre-occupations and problems of the vast bulk of small firms operating in high-tech sectors, and making a contribution to international competitiveness through innovation and export may be overlooked in the current policy climate. By way of redress this paper reports the preliminary findings from a qualitative study of 25 existing small high technology firms in the UK. The themes outlined include: the motivation and drivers of entrepreneurship, the nature of collaboration with HEIs, relationships with customers and the development of ‘customer empathy’ and experiences of venture capital.
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