When Entrepreneurs tell their innovation histories: the role of critical resources in the innovation process in SMES

Guido Capaldo, Lelio Raffa, Pierluigi Rippa


As is well known, innovation is one of the most important strategies of competition for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). It is often argued that SMEs innovate in specific ways, different from the innovation process in large firms. But what are the capabilities to identify innovative SMEs? Which are the key resources in the SMEs innovation process? How can SMEs sustain innovativeness all over the time? In this paper, authors try to give an answer to the previous questions trough a methodological proposal aimed at analysing the determinant of the success of innovation processes in SMEs. The methodology has been applied in the course of case studies, in particular in 5 Italian innovative SMEs. In fact, all the firms were characterised by a continuous effort in the innovation processes. Results of the case study highlight that a key issue in the success of innovation processes in SMEs is the transformation of the role of the Entrepreneurs, who become the coordinator of the critical internal and external resources to a successfully innovation process.


Innovation; capabilities; role of entrepreneur

Full Text:

PDF (Italiano)


Ahuja, G., Katila, R., (2001), “Technological acquisitions and the innovation performance of acquiring firms: a longitudinal study”, Strategic Management Journal, 22: 197–220.

Akgün Ali E., Keskin H., Byrne J.C, Aren S., (2007) “Emotional and learning capability and their impact on product innovativeness and firm performance”, Technovation, 7(9): 501-513.

Amit, R., Shoemaker P.J.H.,(1993), “Strategic assets and organizational rent”, Strategic Management Journal, 14: 33-46.

Bagchi-Sen S., (2001), “Product innovation and competitive advantage in an area of industrial decline: the Niagara region of Canada”, Technovation, 21(1): 45-54.

Barney J.B., (1991), “Firm resource and sustained competitive advantage”, Journal of Management, 17: 99-120.

Bessant J., (1999), “The rise and fall of ‘Supernet': a case study of technology transfer policy for smaller firms”, Research Policy, 28(6): 601-614.

Bessant J., Rush H., (1995), “Building bridges for innovation: the role of consultants in technology transfer”, Research Policy, 24(1): 97-114.

Birchall, D.W., Chanaron, J.J., Soderquist, K., (1996), “Managing innovation in SMEs: a comparison of companies in the UK, France and Portugal”, International Journal of Technology

Management, 12 (3): 291–305.

Bougrain F., Haudeville B., (2002), “Innovation, collaboration and SMEs internal research capacities”, Research Policy, 31(5): 735-747.

Branzei O. ,Vertinsky I., (2006), “Strategic pathways to product innovation capabilities in SMEs”, Journal of Business Venturing, 21(1): 75-105.

Calabrese G., Coccia M., Rolfo S., (2002), “Analisi del processo innovativo nelle PMI italiane”, Working Paper Ceris-CNR 11/2002, Torino: Ceris-CNR.

Calantone R.J., Cavusgil Tamer S., Zhao Y., (2002), “Learning orientation, firm innovation capability, and firm performance”, Industrial Marketing Management, 31(6): 515-524.

Caloghirou Y., Kastelli I., Tsakanikas A., (2004), “Internal capabilities and external knowledge sources: complements or substitutes for innovative performance?” Technovation, 24(1): 29-39.

Capecchi V., (1990), “A history of flexible specialisation and industrial districts in Emilia-Romagna'”, in: Pyke F., Becattini G. and Sengenberger W. (eds), Industrial Districts and Interfirm Co-operation in Italy , Geneva, pp. 20-36.

Carrier C., (1994), “Research note: Intrapreneurship in large firms and SMEs: a comparative study”, International Small Business Journal, 12 (3): 54–61.

Christensen, M.C., (1997), The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Dierckx M.A.F., Stroeken J.H.M, (1999), “Information Technology and Innovation in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises”, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 60(2): 149–166.

Dobni C.B., (2006), “The innovation blueprint”, Business Horizons, 49(4): 329-339.

Docter, H.J., Stokman, C.T.M., (1988), “Innovation in SMEs (Innovatie in het industrie¨le midden en kleinbedrijf)”, Paper for symposium on Technology–Economics, The Hague, March 31.

Dou H., Dou Jr J.M., (1999), “Innovation management technology: experimental approach for small firms in a deprived environment”, International Journal of Information Management, 19(5): 401-412.

Drucker, P.E., (1986), La Innovacion y el Empresario Innovador, Barcelona: Edhasa.

Drucker, P.E., (1993), The Post-Capitalist Society, Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.Edwards T., Delbridge R., Munday M., (2005), “Understanding innovation in small and medium-sized enterprises: a process manifest”, Technovation, 25(10): 1119-1127.

Ferneley E., Bell F., (2006), “Using bricolage to integrate business and information technology innovation in SMEs”, Technovation, 26(2): 232-241.

Freel M.S., (2005), “Patterns of innovation and skills in s

mall firms”, Technovation, 25(2): 123-134.

García-Morales V.J., Lloréns-Montes F.J., Verdú-JoverA.J., (2007), “Influence of personal mastery on organizational performance through organizational learning and innovation in

large firms and SMEs”, Technovation, 27(9): 547-568.

Grant R.M., (1991), “The Resource-based Theory of Competitive Advantage: Implication for Strategy Formulation”, California Management Review, 33(3), 114-135.

Grotz R., Braun B., (1993), “Networks, Milieux and Individual Firm Strategies: Empirical Evidence of an Innovative SME Environment”, Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human

Geography, 75(3): 149-162.

Harris, L.C., Ogbonna, E., (1999), “Developing a market oriented culture: a critical evaluation”, Journal of Management Studies, 36(2): 177–200.

Hausman A., (2005), “Innovativeness among small businesses: Theory and propositions for future research”, Industrial Marketing Management, 34(8): 773-782.

Hoffman K., Parejo M., Bessant J, Perren L., (1998), “Small firms, R&D, technology and innovation in the UK: a literature review”, Technovation, 18 (1): 39-55.

Hurley R.F., Tomas G. M., Hult M. , Knight G.A, (2005),“Innovativeness and capacity to innovate in a complexity of firm-level relationships: A response to Woodside (2004)”,

Industrial Marketing Management, 34(3): 281-283.

Iandoli L., Zollo G., (2007), Organizational Cognition and Learning: Building Systems for Learning Organization, Hershey, New York: Information Science Publishing.

Kaufmann A., Tödtling F., (2002), “How effective is innovation support for SMEs? An analysis of the region of Upper Austria”, Technovation, 22(3): 147-159.

Keizer J.A., Dijkstra L., Halman J.I., (2002), “Explaining innovative efforts of SMEs.: An exploratory survey among SMEs in the mechanical and electrical engineering sector in The

Netherlands”, Technovation, 22(1): 1-13.

Keogh W., (1999), “Understanding Processes and Adding Value within Innovative Small Firms”, Knowledge and Process Management, 6(2): 114–125.

Kohn S., Hüsig S., (2006), “Potential benefits, current supply, utilization and barriers to adoption: An exploratory study on German SMEs and innovation software”, Technovation,

(8): 988-998.

Laitinen E.K., (2002), “A dynamic performance measurement system: evidence from small Finnish technology compagnie”, Scandinavian Journal of Management, 18(1): 65-99.

Le Bars A., Mangematin V., Nesta L., (1998), “Innovation in SME’s: the missive link”, Sixth Annual International Conference on High-Technology Small Firms, University of Twente, The Netherlands, June 4-5.

Le Blanc, L.J., Nash, R., Gallagher, D., Gonda, K., Kakizaki, F., (1997), “A comparison of US and Japanese technology management and innovation”, International Journal of

Technology Management 13(5/6): 601–614.

Lipparini, A., Sobrero, M., (1994), “The glue and the pieces: entrepreneurship and innovation in small-firm networks”, Journal of Business Venturing, March (2), 125–140.

Man T. W. Y., Lau T., Chan K. F., (2002), “The competitiveness of small and medium enterprises: A conceptualization with focus on entrepreneurial competencies”, Journal of Business Venturing, 17(2): 123-142.

Marriott N., Marriott P., (2000), “Professional accountants and the development of a management accounting service for the small firm: barriers and possibilities”, Management Accounting Research, 11: 475–492

Miller, D., Toulouse, J.M., (1986), “Strategy, structure, chief executive officer personality and performance in small firms”, American Journal of Small Business, 10: 47–62.

Nonaka, I., Takeushi, H., (1995), The Knowledge-creating Company, Oxford University Press.

Novelli M., Schmitz B., Spencer T., (2006), “Networks,

clusters and innovation in tourism: A UK experience”, Tourism Management, 27(6): 1141-1152.

Oerlemans, L.A.G., Meeus, M.T.H., Boekema, F.W.M., (1998), “Do networks matter for innovation: the usefulness of the economic network approach in analysing innovation”,

Journal of Economic and Social Geography, 89(3), 298–309.

O'Regan n., Ghobadian A., Sims M., (2006), “Fast tracking innovation in manufacturing SMEs”, Technovation, 26(2), 251-261.

Raffa M., Zollo G. (2000), Economia del software: elementi introduttivi, Napoli: ESI.Rumelt R., (1984), “Toward a Strategic Theory of the Firm”, in Lamb R. (Ed.), Competitive Strategic Management, Englewood Cliffs (NJ): Prentice-Hall, pp. 556-570

Savioz P., Blum M., (2002), “Strategic forecast tool for SMEs: how the opportunity landscape interacts with business strategy to anticipate technological trends”, Technovation, 22(2): 91-100

Simonin, B.L., (1997), “The importance of collaborative know-how: an empirical test of the learning organization”, Academy of Management Journal, 40: 1150–1174.

Storey, D.J, (1994), Understanding the small business sector, London and New York: Routledge.

Van Gils A., (2005), “Management and Governance in Dutch SMEs”, European Management Journal, 23(5): 583-589.

Weerawardena J., O'Cass A. Julian C., (2006), “Does industry matter? Examining the role of industry structure and organizational learning in innovation and brand performance”,

Journal of Business Research, 59(1): 37-45.

Wiklund J., Shepherd D., (2005), “Entrepreneurial orientation and small business performance: a configurational approach”, Journal of Business Venturing, 20(1): 71-91.

Zahra, S.A., Covin, J.G., (1993), “Business strategy, technology policy and firm performance”, Strategic Management Journal, 14: 451–478.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14596/pisb.106


  • There are currently no refbacks.