ویژگیهای شرکتهای کوچک و متوسط در ادبیات از منظر نوآوری فناورانه

تهیه کننده: دکتر اشراقی

SMEs are a vital part of the US economy (Carland et al., 1994). They currently comprise approximately 96% of all manufacturers in the US, and more than half of all US manufacturing employees (Pearson and Ellram, 1995). Among SMEs, emerging SMEs are those that grow most rapidly and enjoy great competitive advantages both domestically and abroad. They have played an increasingly important role in invigorating both the US and world economies. With these businesses representing such a significant part of employment and production, it is important for these firms to succeed and continue to make a strong contribution to the US economy (Rishel and Burns, 1997). First, what determines whether a firm is to be called small/medium-sized or large? According to the Small Business Administration guidelines, SMEs are enterprises employing less than 500 people (Mahone, 1991; Karlsson and Olsson, 1998). Second, what makes a firm an emerging firm? According to Hoover (1995), emerging companies should have sales growth of at least 20% per year annually and net income growth of at least 15% each annually during the previous 5 years. And those that have met the above two criteria (i.e., employment and growth) can be classified as emerging SMEs. (Qian, 2002)

Apart from this argument, SMEs have an obvious role in innovation (Lee, Park, Yoon, & Park, 2010).

Small firms have increased the diversity of business models they employ in their technology commercialization efforts. (Libaers, Hicks, & Porter, 2010)

A heterogeneous set of competencies are required of successful innovators, including discovery and invention, development and prototyping, commercialization, manufacturing and marketing. Intuition as well as management theory suggests that small firms are actors of limited resources and competences in this complex realm. (Libaers et al., 2010)

SMEs typically lack the resources needed to exploit a proprietary technology outside their core business through vertical integration, i.e. developing and commercializing new products based on that technology (Edwards et al., 2005). However, as noted by Lee et al. (2010), they can use out-licensing as a viable strategic approach to increase the economic returns from their technology investments, without building or acquiring costly downstream complementary assets (Teece, 1986). (Bianchi, Campodall’Orto, Frattini, & Vercesi, 2010)

Firms have been led to increasingly sell products combined with services as well as to the shift towards systemic products. (Libaers et al., 2010)

SMEs have some advantages because of their size. Many are flexible and have strong relationships with customers, enabling rapid response to technical and market shifts. Small firms usually have good internal communications and many have a dynamic and entrepreneurial management style (Rothwell, 1994). As well, some studies suggest that the average capability of technical people is higher in small firms and that innovations in these firms can be less expensive (Cooper, 1964). SMEs usually explore new technical spaces. In summary, innovation in small firms can be (more) efficient and effective (Vossen, 1998). On the other hand, many SMEs are not innovative at all. Researchers have stressed the differences between a limited number of very innovative small firms and a large number of non-innovative firms (Acs and Yeung, 1999; Hadjimanolis and Dickson, 2000). Many obstacles to innovation in SMEs are also stressed in the literature. The lack of financial resources, inadequacy of management and marketing, lack of skilled workers, weakness in external information and linkages, and difficulty in coping with government regulations are factors that limit their competitiveness (Buijs, 1987; Freel, 2000; Rothwell, 1994). SMEs may be unable to exploit new products because of the limited organizational and marketing capabilities. Other studies discuss cultural barriers to innovation, such as reluctance to change, tendency to ignore procedure, focus on short-term requirements, lack of strategic vision and the diffusion of a blame culture (Filson and Lewis, 2000; Freel, 2000). SMEs’ main problems are due particularly to the scarce attention devoted to organizational and managerial problems especially in the field of innovation (Cobbenhagen, 1999). (Scozzi, Garavelli, & Crowston, 2005)

Innovation process perspective of analysis: problems and needs within SMEs (Scozzi et al., 2005)


Supporters of informality, however, argue that SMEs do not need to formalize their structures and systems due to the limited range of products that they develop for niche markets. They base this argument on the premise that flexible structures are a significant source of SMEs’ competitive advantage over large firms (Fiengenbaum and Karnani, 1991; Appiah-Adu and Singh, 1998; Narayanan, 2001; Qian and Li, 2003). This contradiction gives rise to a theoretical tension between formality and informality for manufacturing SMEs. This tension needs to be explained by identifying the elements of formal and informal structures that have an effect on SMEs’ competitiveness and why these are important. (Terziovski, 2010)

Market awareness:

Innovator strategy is usually accomplished with wide market awareness (Lambkin and Day, 1989). Market awareness can be defined as a market’s familiarity with a particular firm, brand, or product. An innovator has to inform potential customers about the merits of its new products and convince consumers of the value of new products over the existing ones (Scherer and Ross, 1990). Market awareness can be more important in high-tech industries than in traditional industries, as new products offered in high-tech industries can be dramatically different from existing products and not widely familiar to potential consumers (Moriarty and Kosnik, 1989). In such a setting, without detailed knowledge about a new product’s existence, attributes, and benefits, customers will not shift easily from existing products to the new product, as the shift incurs switching costs and the consequent risks (Covin, Slevin, and Covin, 1990). Moreover, market awareness builds up brand power and distributors’ confidence. (Qian & Li, 2003)

Niche operation:

Innovator strategy and wide market awareness require a large amount of financial resources. However, size constraints often lead to resource shortages. Therefore, SMTEs have to restrict their operation in certain market niches and concentrate their limited resources in these niches. Such focus strategy relaxes size constraints and enables SMTEs to develop and maintain their technological leadership (Kohn, 1997). In addition, focus strategy offers two other strategic benefits for SMTEs. First, SMTEs can carve out niches that few direct competitors serve and thus charge relatively high prices (Fiegenbaum, Hart, and Schendel, 1996). Second, focus orientation helps an SMTE avoid extending itself beyond its core capabilities, and thus deepen its expertise (Covin et al., 1990). (Qian & Li, 2003)


However, small market niches in a single market may not generate sufficient sales to recover high R&D and advertising costs. In addition, a single market may not be broad enough to support finance, marketing, and distribution needs (Preece, Miles, and Baetz, 1999). Consequently, SMTEs have to expand into the same niches in other countries in pursuit of cost reduction (Porter, 1990). SMTEs can benefit from internationalization (Qian and Wang, 2000). First, with substantial R&D investments associated with innovator strategy, SMTEs have to leverage their R&D costs across a greater volume of products which inevitably must be sold across many markets (Pitts and Lei, 2000). Second, internationalization increases economies of scale which promote experience curve effects in production. Third, internationalization generates extra profits to sustain large-scale R&D operations (Kobrin, 1991). Last, with shortened product life cycle in high-tech industries, an innovator has to maximize sales as soon as possible before the products are made obsolete (Covin and Slevin, 1989). Internationalization helps achieve this purpose by operating in various geographic locations. (Qian & Li, 2003)

different to large firms

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are different from large organizations. These differences primarily relate to such defining SME characteristics as a reactive, fire-fighting mentality, resource limitations, informal strategies, and flexible structures (Hudson, Smart, and Bourne, 2001; Qian and Li, 2003). As a consequence, they tend to have a failure rate higher than that of large organizations. (Terziovski, 2010)

Bianchi, M., Campodall’Orto, S., Frattini, F., & Vercesi, P. (2010). Enabling open innovation in small‐and medium‐sized enterprises: how to find alternative applications for your technologies. R&D Management, 40(4), 414-431.

Lee, S., Park, G., Yoon, B., & Park, J. (2010). Open innovation in SMEs—An intermediated network model. Research policy, 39(2), 290-300.

Libaers, D., Hicks, D., & Porter, A. L. (2010). A taxonomy of small firm technology commercialization. Industrial and Corporate Change, dtq039.

Qian, G. (2002). Multinationality, product diversification, and profitability of emerging US small-and medium-sized enterprises. Journal of Business Venturing, 17(6), 611-633.

Qian, G., & Li, L. (2003). Profitability of small‐and medium‐sized enterprises in high‐tech industries: the case of the biotechnology industry. Strategic Management Journal, 24(9), 881-887.

Scozzi, B., Garavelli, C., & Crowston, K. (2005). Methods for modeling and supporting innovation processes in SMEs. European Journal of Innovation Management, 8(1), 120-137.

Terziovski, M. (2010). Innovation practice and its performance implications in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the manufacturing sector: a resource‐based view. Strategic Management Journal, 31(8), 892-902.

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