Product innovation in small manufacturing firms : the case of the West Midlands
Drawing upon data collected as part of the development of a Regional Innovation Strategy (RIS) for the West Midlands region of England, the current study presents an attempt to better understand the factors which may hinder or facilitate product innovation within small manufacturing firms. The focus is upon traditional and/or mature sectors rather than the high-technology small firms (HTSFs), or new technology-based firms (NTBFs), which feature disproportionately in academic and policy discussions. The study adopts a model of firm-level innovation which views innovation outputs as a function of, internal and external, resource inputs and enabling activities set within an institutional framework (broadly defined to encompass instituted behaviours). To this end, the study is influenced by Systems of Innovation (SI) approaches and is, in part, a critique of such approaches. More specifically, employing a sample of 228 small manufacturing firms (i.e. less than 250 full-time-equivalent employees), the thesis considers the relationship between 'innovativeness' and: firm strategy and structure; skills; finance; external linkages; and, performance. Empirical observations are set within a broader conceptual framework of learning, discovery and interaction. Moreover, given the context in which the data was collected, policy considerations loom large. In particular, the thesis considers the extent to which 'spatial' systems of innovation represent appropriate models for economic development, generally, and for the revitalisation of areas characterised by industrial decline and restructuring specifically.