International Journal of Applied Strategic Management (ISSN: 1742-8204) Volume 1 Issue 1
Dr Brychan Thomas
University of Glamorgan
Access to technologies by small firms, it has been suggested, can best be achieved by encouraging the formation of networks of innovators. Such collaborative arrangements have become essential to improving the competitive position of many companies, predominantly through the accomplishment of mutually beneficial goals involving the acquisition of state-of-the-art technology. Such inter-firm collaboration networks serve to externalise the innovation function through the transfer of technology between firms. There exists considerable evidence that during the last fifteen years, industrial innovation has become significantly more of a networking process, with the number of strategic alliances increasing considerably. In particular, there is increasing evidence of network relationships between innovative Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), especially in the transfer of technologies. This is not surprising, as the small firm sector is making an important contribution to technological innovations in technologically sensitive industries.
Whilst research has examined the transfer of technology from small to large organisations, there has been comparatively little study of the technology transfer process into the small innovative firm. This is surprising, as with the continuing proliferation of information, knowledge, and scientific and technological specialities, it is likely that innovative small firms will become increasingly dependent on external sources during the innovation process. Accordingly, this paper considers technology transfer networks, within Industrial South Wales, involving external sources of inputs in the development of successful technological innovation within small firms. In particular the impact of networks of firms and organisations linked together in patterns of co-operation and affiliation is considered. To facilitate this, the paper draws on a number of research methods including analysis of secondary sources, policy interviews, a study of support services and a case study. Secondary sources include existing literature in the area, which consist of both published material and 'grey' literature (including reports from the European Commission, universities and consultants). In addition a series of interviews with key policy-makers at regional level, a study of technology transfer network support services and a case study of an innovation network partnership are reported.
From the study of technology transfer support services it is found that there are 221 known support services referenced for innovation and technology support in Wales with 205 located within Wales and 16 in England . Of the 205 located in Wales there are 33 networks with 4 specific to small firms and SMEs and 29 non-specific. For Industrial South Wales there are 159 support services located within the region involving 24 networks with 2 specific to small firms and SMEs and 22 non-specific.
For regional innovation and technology support services to benefit the small firm and the technology transfer process there is a need to build network relationships and to overcome the reluctance of small firms to interact. The managerial conclusions of the paper recommend that technology transfer strategies in Industrial South Wales relevant to small firm networks be developed by policy makers creating a positive 'climate' involving support and advisory mechanisms, making small firms aware of technology transfer services, and providing better mechanisms to forge network relationships.