Serial and persistent innovation in UK small companies

Corradini, Carlo (2013) Serial and persistent innovation in UK small companies. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

In this thesis, we endeavour to explore the characteristics and the role of exceptionally innovative small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) within the UK system of innovation. The focus is placed on 'serial' and 'persistent' innovators, defined as independent companies with an unusually high frequency of innovation over time. The aim of the thesis is to identify such companies and analyse those factors, both internal and external to the enterprise, which influence such a sustained stream of innovation within SMEs.

Persistence in innovation is an important element within the discussion on the properties of the patterns of innovative activities and industry dynamics. In this thesis, we propose three main empirical studies which look at rather unexplored areas in the literature on persistent innovation, focusing on the presence and the specific characteristics of small persistent and serial innovators and the role of cumulated knowledge capabilities in explaining the presence and the extent of such phenomenon. In particular, we follow a multidimensional approach, investigating the related and yet different phenomena of persistent and serial innovation through different perspectives built upon empirical evidence from patent data as well as innovation surveys.

Our intended contribution to the literature is centred around the presence of persistent and serial innovation across small companies, the role played by elements internal and external to the enterprise in sustaining their innovation activity and, finally, the extent and the determinants of technological diversification across small serial innovators. Additionally, we explore differences and similarities across firm size.

The first study explores the effect that specific patterns of innovative activity and firm-specific technology characteristics exert on the rate of innovation of serial innovators. Then, it offers a comparative perspective observing the differences between small and large serial innovators. In particular, we test the hypothesis that the specific qualities of cumulativeness, described in terms of dynamic economies of scale and dynamic increasing returns, play a central role in defining the differences across firm size. Analysing patent counts and citation-weighted patent counts with a negative binomial GEE model, this study provides evidence that serial small innovators benefit from technological regimes characterized by patterns of creative accumulation and from combinative capabilities based on accumulated internal knowledge competencies as sources of both technological learning and creation.

The second study investigates the presence and the determinants of technological diversification across small serial innovators. After presenting stylised facts on the relationship between serial innovators and technological diversification, we focus on the elements that may bring small innovative firms to engage in the costly process of technological diversification, analysing the trade-off that is likely to take place between the need to explore new technological opportunities and the significant element of path dependency delineated by the specific core technological competencies that usually characterise small innovative companies. Using a fractional response model for panel data estimated within a GEE framework, we find that increasing technological opportunities present an inverted U relationship with diversification, while technological trajectories defined by coherence in both technological search and core competencies support specialization.

The third study addresses the question of whether there is persistence in innovative activities across UK companies. In particular, we analyse the presence of persistent innovation through a panel dataset obtained from three successive rounds of the UK Innovation Survey, covering the period of time between the year 2002 and the year 2008. Explicitly accounting for unobserved firm heterogeneity, we provide evidence of persistence in innovation for both large and small companies. Moreover, our findings confirm that important interaction effects exist between the effect exerted by the presence of persistent innovation, in the form of dynamic increasing returns within the process of knowledge accumulation, and technological intensity inherent to firms' innovation activity, at least among small companies.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Battisti, G.
Demirel, P.
Keywords: Small business, technological innovations, Great Britain
Subjects: H Social sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 13718
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2014 08:15
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2016 18:46
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/13718

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